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How Hearing Impacts Balance

hearing specialist performing a standard hearing test

It can be hard to imagine that there may be a link between hearing loss and balance, but the fact is that these two things share a link. The reality is that hearing-related issues – and ear health problems for that matter – can impact far more than just your hearing. Believe it or not, certain ear issues can also impact being able to stand and walk, as well as affecting your ability to remain balanced. 

If you’ve noticed that recently you’ve become a little more unsteady on your feet, you might be wondering what’s going on. You may assume that the issue is related to your legs or back, but hearing issues are a common cause of balance issues. If you have an ear disorder, it can leave you feeling unsteady, wobbly or like everything around you is constantly moving. 

Having the sensation of vertigo can have a big impact on how balanced you feel as you move around – and can be totally debilitating to deal with. 

What factors allow us to keep our balance? 

The feeling of balance is kept through input from various aspects of the body, including vision, nerves and the inner ear. 

What’s interesting about balance is that normally, your body can compensate for vision and nerve input that could lead to balance issues if not corrected. However, when it comes to issues in the inner ear, this becomes more difficult to do, which can result in feelings of vertigo and dizziness. The inner part of the ear is made up of two parts: the cochlea – which manages hearing – and the vestibular system – which deals with balance. 

The vestibular system uses specialist sensory cells to detect movement as the head moves and tilts and is very sensitive to even the smallest movements. The vestibular system sends signals to the vestibular nerve, which is attached to the cochlear nerve and is used to share signals with the brain. 

Can hearing loss cause issues with balance? 

It’s important to understand that while hearing loss and balance problems can go hand in hand, this is not always the case. Sometimes the two issues can be completely separate from each other, while other times there can be a link between the two. There are two main conditions that can cause both hearing loss and problems with balance. These conditions are Labyrinthitis and Meniere’s disease. 

Labyrinthitis is an inner ear infection where the structure within the inner part of your ear becomes sore, swollen and inflamed. This infection can cause hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo and nausea. A similar condition, called vestibular neuronitis, can cause the same symptoms without hearing loss. 

Meniere’s disease is where heightened pressure occurs within the labyrinth, which can lead to hearing loss, vertigo and tinnitus. Usually, Meniere’s disease impacts just one ear, but it can affect both ears in some cases. 

There is no cure for this condition, however there is medication that can be used to help manage it. Other causes of balance related issues include age-related dizziness and imbalance and migraine-related vertigo. 

Age-related dizziness and imbalance is often caused by a failing vestibular system within the inner ear. The good news is that with the right care and support, most people’s hearing improves once the problem has been diagnosed. At the same time, migraine-associated vertigo includes balance disruption before, during or after a migraine attack, with the issue impacting around 40% of people who have migraines. 

What can you do if you’re having balance problems?

If you find yourself struggling with your balance and think that the problem might be hearing-related, it’s important to book yourself a hearing check up with your audiologist as soon as possible. The sooner the problem is treated, the better. 

Your audiologist should be able to look at your ear health and determine whether it is an ear-related issues that’s causing your balance problems. If it is an ear-related issue, your audiologist will be able to explain what your treatment options are for managing the problem. If this isn’t the case, then they will refer you for treatment at another medical facility to allow you to determine what’s causing the balance-related issues that you’re struggling with. 

At Hear Here Audiology we have a team of highly skilled and dedicated specialists who have years of experience dealing with hearing-related balance issues and are on hand to help. To learn more about how Hear Here Audiology can help, give us a call on 727-289-1212 today.