Researchers have shed light on the frequent, debilitating, and sometimes life-threatening falls among the elderly: many tumbles may be caused by inner-ear imbalances, Time reports. Some 35% of Americans over 40 have such vestibular dysfunction; the condition affects more than 50% of Americans 60 and older. An inner-ear imbalance multiplies the risk of falling by twelve times.
It’s not just a matter of bone weakness, poor sight, and gait trouble, previously considered the main factors. The study’s results show that regular screening for inner-ear issues in those over 50 could reduce falls and save lives. “Patients who are aware they're at a greater risk can take steps to minimize the chance of falling, such as physical therapy to improve balance or simply installing railings in places they tend to fall,” says the study’s head.