Balance and Hearing Loss – What’s the Link?

Woman experiencing dizziness, vertigo, and balance issues.

Your health can be significantly impacted by falling down and as you age, this is especially true. It becomes more significant as you grow older to know about possible causes of falls. A solid understanding of those causes can help lessen damage caused by tripping or loss of balance. For example, as researchers have learned more, it’s become clear that improving flexibility and strength is critical to minimizing fall risks.

But it isn’t the only factor that should be considered. Researchers have uncovered a perhaps not so unexpected connection between hearing loss and fall risks. Individuals with even minor hearing loss are three times more likely to have a tumble than individuals whose hearing is normal, according to a study done by researchers at The Johns Hopkins University.

The study also revealed that the risk of a fall increased in direct proportion to the severity of the hearing loss. Understanding how hearing and balance interact can help providers and individuals alike better handle fall risks. Quality of life can be considerably improved by this. Seniors will have fewer trips to the emergency room and will be able to remain in their homes longer.

Does hearing loss cause balance problems?

Many individuals are used to thinking of balance as something that begins in your feet. It’s true that good footwork can help you avoid falls, but the reality is that the majority of your body’s sense of balance begins in your ears.

Particularly, this sense of balance starts in your inner ear. There is a portion of the inner ear called the labyrinth. The labyrinth is comprised of two essential portions:

  • The vestibular system: This is a complex collection of tubes that transmits balance information to your brain.
  • The cochlea: A spiral-shaped cavity that conveys sound to your brain.

As the fluid moves around in the vestibular system, your brain utilizes the information to calculate orientation. Your sense of balance and equilibrium are governed by this.

A feeling of dizziness and vertigo can be the result if signals from your ears are distorted or disrupted. Hearing loss happens for a wide variety of reasons, and in many cases, the same inherent causes can affect the balance signals sent from your vestibular system to your brain.

Particular causes of balance loss

Researchers have attempted to collect more information on what kinds of hearing loss cause balance problems. There are some conditions which impact both hearing and balance. Some of those causes include the following conditions:

  • Labrynthitis: This is an infection of the inner ear, particularly of the labyrinth. As the labyrinth becomes inflamed, the inner ear loses its ability to develop equilibrium and its ability to hear. Treatment frequently involves steroids or other medications. Symptoms go away once the inflammation of the inner ear goes down.
  • Meniere’s Disease: The symptoms of this inner ear condition include dizziness and episodes of hearing loss. Over time this condition usually gets worse.

Obviously, there are other causes of balance issues that aren’t associated with hearing loss. One condition, for instance, that can result in dizziness and vertigo but typically not hearing loss is BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo).

If you had a balance disorder, what would the symptoms look like?

Balance conditions don’t always have an effect on your ability to hear. Dizziness and vertigo are the most common symptoms of balance conditions. Nausea, vision issues, and the sense of “floating” can also happen.

You should contact us about possible treatments if you have any of these symptoms.

How is the risk of falling elevated by hearing loss?

That hearing and balance are closely related does not seem in dispute. But, researchers aren’t always clear on why. The correlation between hearing loss and falls, for instance, doesn’t make clear the reasons for that relationship.

However, there are some possible reasons why hearing loss may impact your balance and your fall risk, including the following:

  • Isolation: Hearing loss has long been associated with an increase in social withdrawal. You may be alone with nobody to call for help or help you get up if you fall. This can dramatically increase your danger of serious injury in the case of a fall.
  • Cognitive drain and fatigue: Those with hearing loss often note a considerable increase in fatigue. In large part, that’s because when hearing loss occurs, the human brain tries to compensate. This takes a substantial amount of cognitive energy, resulting in fatigue. Falls are more likely with this fatigue and mental drain.
  • Diminished situational awareness: Your ears help orient you to what’s occurring in three-dimensional space. With neglected hearing loss, you may be less likely to notice a falling hazard just around the corner (a family pet, for instance).

Strategies for balance, hearing loss, and fall reduction

How can you deal with balance issues? Determining the underlying cause of the balance issue will be the first step for the majority of individuals. Depending on the cause, antibiotics or steroids might be used. Any nausea and vomiting associated with these balance and hearing problems may necessitate other medication. In some circumstances, it’s also a good idea to ensure any underlying hearing loss is also addressed.

Lowering the risk of falls, in some situations, might require a more generalized strategy. This may include the following:

  • Talk to a physical therapist: In many cases, physical and occupational therapists can help restore your visual, mental, and balance systems. This will go a long way to prevent falls.
  • Talk to an audiologist: We can help fit you with hearing aids and maintain your hearing health. If you’re at risk of a fall due to hearing loss, this will help ensure that risk is as low as possible.

Don’t avoid getting quality healthcare

Falls can cause significant damage as you get older. Your risk of falling can be substantially increased by hearing loss, balance issues, or a combination of the two. That’s why prevention is so important. You will take pleasure in a more comfortable life, have more quality time with your friends and family, and have more time in your home by preventing falls. If you are experiencing vertigo, dizziness, or balance issues, contact us today, we can help.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Questions? Talk To Us.