Dizziness, Falls, and Hearing Loss in Adults Living With Sickle Cell Disease

M. Dawn Nelson, Danielle M. Bennett, Mark E. Lehman, Angela I. Okonji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of reported dizziness/imbalance, frequency of falls, and hearing loss in adults with sickle cell disease (SCD) and determine the relationship of these self-reported problems both during and in the absence of an SCD crisis. Also, the impact of educational level and health insurance on seeking treatment services, as well as the relationship of falls to stroke, legal blindness, and other orthopedic problems, was assessed. Interrupted blood flow to shared vestibular and auditory arteries supports the notion of increased likelihood of balance deficits and increased falls in this population. Design: A cross-sectional survey study design was used. Adults living with SCD responded to a questionnaire that was distributed online and through traditional mail. Study Sample: Adults living with SCD (N = 135) participated in the study. Results: Responses revealed 70% of participants with SCD experienced dizziness/imbalance and 23% reported hearing loss. Furthermore, 33% of participants reported falling one or more times in the last year. The prevalence of dizziness/imbalance, falling, and hearing loss in the respondents with SCD was much higher than that of the general population of the United States. Addition-ally, for dizziness and falling, the prevalence was higher not only than the national average but also for persons over 65 years of age. A significant association was demonstrated between dizziness/imbalance and hearing loss as well as dizziness/imbalance and falls for adults living with SCD. In fact, participants with self-reported hearing loss were 5.2 times more likely to also report dizziness/imbalance. They were 4.9 times more likely to fall if they also reported dizziness/imbalance. Numbness of the feet was revealed to significantly impact the likelihood of falling in this disease population and should be further studied. Regarding SCD crisis status, dizziness/imbalance and falls were more likely to occur outside of SCD crisis than during a crisis. Furthermore, pain levels were significantly associated with dizziness/imbalance only when respondents were in crisis and not in the absence of a crisis. In crisis, higher pain levels were reported from respondents who also reported dizziness/imbalance than from those who did not report dizziness. No significant relationship was revealed between hearing loss and falls. Discussion: These results provide justification for patient and health care pro-vider education regarding appropriate referrals for vestibular/balance assess-ments and provision of fall prevention strategies. Future studies on balance and SCD are encouraged.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1178-1190
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Audiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2022


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