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How Hearing Impacts Balance

woman holding hands to her head in distress

Your balance and hearing are closely connected. When you experience a problem with your hearing, you may find that your balance suffers too. Understanding how hearing impacts balance can help you pay attention to key signs you may have a hearing problem. Getting treatment for your hearing issues could help you regain your ability to balance, allowing you to carry on with your day-to-day activities.

Learn more about how hearing impacts your balance to help you better understand the link and know when you should seek help from an audiologist.

How the Balance (Vestibular) System Works

The body has an in-built balance system that’s designed to keep us grounded. This is known as the vestibular system. The vestibular system is made up of the vestibular organs (located in your inner ear), your sight and proprioception – the body’s ability to sense movement, such as through your legs and feet, for example. Together, these elements help us retain the balance needed for everyday activities like walking, exercise and so on.

The vestibular system within the inner ear includes three semicircular canals, which are filled with fluid and almost act sails that respond when we move, and the utricle and saccule organs, which are stones inside the ear that respond to gravity. It’s thanks to these organs that our brains know when we’re moving, and whether we’re standing or horizontal.

Balance and Your Inner Ear

The vestibular system is a sensitive one. When you experience an inner ear issue, your balance can be affected. You may find that you experience symptoms of dizziness, nausea or vertigo, which can feel very debilitating. 

While not all balance or hearing issues impact each other, they can be linked. Experiencing hearing loss, for example, could also have implications for your balance. An infection that causes inflammation within the inner ear could also affect your balance as it directly impacts the organs in the vestibular system. 

Some of the most common issues that can affect both your balance and hearing include:

  • Meniere’s disease: A disease that may cause hearing loss as well as tinnitus and other symptoms
  • Acoustic neuroma: Small, non-cancerous tumors that can cause hearing loss
  • Medication: Some medicines can impact your balance and hearing systems
  • Prolonged noise exposure: This can damage both your hearing and your balance system
  • Infections
  • Genetic condition
  • Age

Some causes may be temporary, with symptoms resolving themselves after a short while. Others may be treated with some treatment or symptom management.

Balance and Age

As noted above, age can be a factor that leads to balance and hearing issues. As much as a third of people over the age of 65 experience hearing loss, which can also lead to balance issues. The impact on our senses as we age can mean the brain loses some of its key indicators of movement, which can lead to mobility issues in older people.

Regular check-ups on your hearing once you reach 60 years of age should help identify any issues with your hearing that may be causing a balance issue.

How Hearing Tests Can Help with Balance Issues

While hearing and balance issues aren’t always linked, audiologist tests can be a helpful way to diagnose both hearing and balance issues and whether they are connected. 

Your audiologist can carry out two key balance tests:

  • Videonystagmography (VNG) test: This test can help detect nystagmus, otherwise known as involuntary eye movement, which is a condition that can be caused by inner ear issues – further showing how your inner ear is linked to your body.
  • Auditory brainstem evoked response (ABR) test: The ABR test looks at how your nerves respond to sounds. If there is a problem with your responses, this could be the sign of an inner ear or balance issue.

Having your hearing tested can be an effective way of identifying a balance issue to help make sure you get the help you need.

Getting Help for Balance Issues or Hearing Loss

If you are struggling with your balance or have been experiencing signs of hearing loss, then an appointment with your audiologist can help. Your audiologist will be able to perform a series of tests to assess your hearing to confirm hearing loss, as well as issues that could be impacting your balance. Your audiologist will also be able to recommend treatment, such as hearing aids, that could help you get back on track and improve your quality of life significantly.

At Hinderliter Hearing Services, we provide a range of hearing tests and services to help you get the help you need for any hearing issues. Managing hearing loss could be a way for you to improve your balance, helping to combat inner ear issues that could be causing a problem. Book your appointment at Hinderliter Hearing Services today by calling 248-430-8425 for further information about our services.