Our inner ear has an organ of hearing and balance called the cochlea. Located inside the cochlea is an intricate combination of fluids and hair cells (cilia) that when stimulated by movement or sound tell the brain where we are in space and help us hear. As we age (as early as age 23) these hair cells start to slowly deteriorate. By the age of 65 many of us may notice the first signs of trouble hearing and balancing. Earlier if we worked in noise, shoot guns or use chain saws without ear protection. It is my opinion that we as a society are outliving our ears. Almost everyone over 80 that comes into my office fails the hearing screening.
Strength, flexibility and balance are things that can be prolonged. Regular exercise is really good for one's balance. Locally we have fit and fall classes at some of our senior centers and some of the gyms have special classes for people over 50 one was named silver sneakers.
A few years ago I sustained a knee injury that required surgery. After a successful surgery I needed a low impact workout that could help me with balance and stability. The Frontier ice rink had just opened so I started ice skating as an adult. Wow did I get an education. Those figure skaters on TV make it look so easy! The kids in the ice skating class could learn a new jump or spin in one lesson. For us adults it takes many lessons to learn the smallest new trick and for me it mostly came down to the lack of balance I have as an adult. The children are small, close to the ground and have the balance I remember I used to have.
Ice skating competitions even have a different set of rules for adults than for kids. The judges know that most adults don’t have the balance strength and flexibility that young people do so the expectation for adults is a little more lenient.
If you are having some trouble with your balance consider taking a class or using a cane. If you are having trouble hearing consider having an evaluation and trying hearing aids. Your quality of life is directly affected by your hearing and balance.
Tia Flynn is a certified audiologist who has been in business for more than 17 years. Every Tuesday morning from 9 a.m.. to noon, she provides free hearing screenings at 1601 Third St. in Coeur d’Alene. (208) 664-2767. Visit our newly updated website www.affordablehearinginc.com to watch helpful videos or take an online hearing test.