Short-term risk of falling after cochlear implantation washington university cochlear implant study group

Madelyn N. Stevens, Jacqueline E. Baudhuin, Timothy E. Hullar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Cochlear implantation is a highly effective intervention for hearing loss, but insertion of an implant into the cochlea is often accompanied by loss of residual hearing function. Sometimes, postoperative testing also shows loss of function in the semicircular canals or otolith organs. The effect of this loss on equilibrium, particularly in the short term following surgery, and the risk of falling due to this loss is unknown. We prospectively measured balance in 16 consecutive adult cochlear implant patients before and 2 weeks after surgery. Subjects stood on a foam pad with eyes closed, feet together and arms at the side. The length of time over which this posture could be maintained was recorded up to a maximum value of 30 s indicating normal performance. Ten of 16 subjects reached a maximal time on preoperative testing. Nine of 16 subjects lost balance function after surgery. Four of the 10 subjects with normal preoperative balance function lost function. Subjects older than the age of 60 were more likely to lose balance function than younger subjects. We used previously published values relating balance performance on foam to risk of falling to calculate the fall risk among our subjects. The relative risk of falling increased after surgery by more than threefold in some patients. Imbalance after cochlear implantation may be much more common, particularly in the short term, than previously appreciated. This imbalance is accompanied by an increased risk of falling in many patients. Careful preoperative counseling before implantation and postoperative therapeutic intervention to improve comfort and reduce the chance of falling may be warranted, particularly in patients at a risk for injuries from falls (level of evidence: 2b).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-377
Number of pages8
JournalAudiology and Neurotology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 13 2014


  • Cochlear implant
  • Elderly
  • Falling
  • Foam
  • Imbalance
  • Older subjects
  • Romberg test
  • Vestibular dysfunction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Speech and Hearing


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