Our ears are connected to more than just our hearing. A complex organ made up of many parts, our inner ear is made of delicate bone and tissue. Structures such as the cochlea, and vestibular system (also sometimes called the labyrinth), process both the sounds we hear and the forces we feel around us. Our ears work with our eyes and the rest of our body, to help keep us upright, see objects more clearly and give us our innate awareness of gravity.
With both hearing and balance heavily controlled by the inner ear, it makes sense that problems with hearing loss may be the cause of problems with the balance, and vice-versa. But is that always the case?
Is hearing loss responsible for balance loss?
While hearing loss itself isn’t responsible for the loss of balance, the type of hearing loss and the part of the ear that is damaged could be contributing to symptoms such as dizziness, headaches and body aches.
Once your inner ear is having difficulty processing the information it needs to control balance and coordination, the rest of your body starts working overtime to compensate. Relying on gathering more information from the eyes and joints, putting a strain on your body that can cause aches and make you feel unsteady on your feet. This is why hearing plays such an important role in balance.
Ear infections can also cause temporary hearing loss and balance problems. This happens most commonly when a viral infection, like the common cold, spreads to your inner ear. Although you may fight off the virus quite quickly, the vestibular system might have been damaged. Resulting in symptoms like dizziness and vertigo.
Hearing loss and balance loss experienced together could also be an indication of a bigger underlying condition, such as Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and Ménière’s disease.
If you’re experiencing problems with both your balance and your hearing, it’s a good idea to see a trained professional to rule out serious problems and find the right treatment.
Can hearing aids help?
Recent studies into both adults and children with hearing loss have found that hearing aids can alleviate balance problems.
Research conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine found that older adults with hearing loss who wore hearing aids performed better overall on balance tests while using the devices.
A recent study by the American Journal of Audiology investigating balance in children with greater hearing loss found they tended to learn to sit and walk later than their peers, while their parents also reported a greater concern about balance issues. Their case study showed that even in young children, the use of hearing aids in combination with other forms of treatment improved balance and coordination.
At the Art of Hearing we know that seeing you is the key to better hearing. Our expert audiologists can examine your ear and determine if hearing loss is what is contributing to your balance issues. If you’ve been experiencing symptoms like trouble walking or trips and falls, or if you’ve had an ear infection recently, get in touch today to schedule your appointment.