Fall Risk May Increase If Inner Ear Is Damaged

People with Alzheimer’s are already at a higher risk for falls than the average person. A new study suggests that damage to the inner ear system that controls balance could be a major reason.

The vestibular system is an intricate network consisting of several canals and bony structures deep inside the inner ear. The impaired system can lead to dizziness, vertigo, and balance issues, even in perfectly healthy people.


A new study by researchers at John Hopkins Medicine found that damage to the vestibular system may be especially dangerous for people with Alzheimer’s.

Overall, their small study of 48 with Alzheimer’s found that impairment to the vestibular system was linked with a 50 percent increase in fall risk.

People with Alzheimer’s with no damage to the vestibular system were about half as likely to fall than those with impairment.

Falls are a major problem for people with Alzheimer’s disease. They tend to fall at twice the rate of healthy older adults, often leading to injury, assisted living requirements, or early death.


Some describe the vestibular system as a sixth hidden sense because it functions subconsciously. It is always “on” and usually operates to keep people oriented as they move through space.

It senses what’s up, down, and all around and feeds that information to the brain, much like other sensory organs like the eyes or ears. But unlike closing your eyes or plugging your ears, you can not wilfully control the vestibular system. When the system is impaired, it is very difficult to navigate the world.

Thankfully, vestibular treatment is available. Balance exercises performed with the care of a physical therapist can help, but it is up to doctors to recognize it and screen Alzheimer’s patients for damage.

Author Bio

About eight years ago, Mat Lecompte had an epiphany. He’d been ignoring his health and suddenly realized he needed to do something about it. Since then, through hard work, determination and plenty of education, he has transformed his life. He’s changed his body composition by learning the ins and outs of nutrition, exercise, and fitness and wants to share his knowledge with you. Starting as a journalist over 10 years ago, Mat has not only honed his belief system and approach with practical experience, but he has also worked closely with nutritionists, dieticians, athletes, and fitness professionals. He embraces natural healing methods and believes that diet, exercise and willpower are the foundation of a healthy, happy, and drug-free existence.