When it comes to communication, hearing is our most important sense — it allows us to gather auditory information during normal day-to-day activities. Hearing not only allows us to socialize, communicate at work, and talk with our loved ones, but it also warns us of potential danger. When our hearing is impaired, it affects our ability to locate where sounds are coming from, and it affects the brain’s ability to know where your body is in proximity to the sounds around you.

Through a process called localization, a person subconsciously uses their hearing to identify the origin of a detected sound, as well as their distance from that sound. The auditory system uses several cues for localization, many of which are affected by a hearing loss.

When the delicate hearing organs in the inner ear are damaged, our ability to detect softer sounds — to understand what those sounds are and where they’re coming from — is diminished.

This is one possible answer to why those with hearing loss experience injuries at a much greater rate than those with healthy hearing. A study published in the June 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that adults with a hearing impairment have a 17% to 19% greater risk of being hospitalized each year. The research received funding from the National Institute on Aging and other sources; it examined data from 2,148 adults ages 70 to 79, over a period of 12 years.

Previous research has found that a mild hearing loss can lead to an increased risk of falls and hospitalization. A February 2012 study from the Archives of Internal Medicine found that those with a mild hearing loss were three times as likely to fall (and even more likely as their hearing worsened), while a June 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association also linked hearing loss with increased visits to the hospital.

Your hearing aids help you stay connected to your loved ones through conversation, but they also keep you connected to the world around you by helping you hear the sounds of everyday life — as long as you’re wearing them. Hearing aids can help keep your mind active and healthy, can eliminate potential losses of income due to hearing loss, and can improve your overall quality of life.