The Connection Between Balance and Hearing Loss

ENT Issues,Hearing Loss Articles | Corpus Christi ENT Sinus & Allergy

Woman experiencing dizziness, vertigo, and balance issues.

Your health can be substantially impacted by falling down and as you age, this is especially relevant. That’s why more fully understanding the possible causes of falls is so essential. This type of awareness can help you avoid scenarios where you’re more likely to trip and sustain an injury. Researchers have learned, for example, that improving strength and flexibility can significantly help in reducing the probability of a fall.

But it isn’t the only aspect that needs to be considered. It probably won’t come as a surprise, then, that there is a connection between hearing loss and an increased risk of falling. A study, performed by a team from Johns Hopkins University, found that individuals between the ages of 40 and 70 who had even mild hearing loss were three times more likely to fall than people who didn’t have hearing loss.

There is also a significant connection between fall risks and the seriousness of hearing loss according to this same study. Providers and also patients will be in a better place to manage fall risks by knowing the link between hearing and balance. Quality of life can be considerably improved by this. Seniors will be able to remain in their homes longer, face fewer broken bones, and experience fewer fall-associated emergencies.

Does hearing loss cause balance problems?

It’s common for individuals to think of balance as a foot and leg thing. Even though having good footwork can be helpful, your ears are where your sense of balance really begins.

Actually, it’s specifically your inner ear where balance begins. The inner ear has a portion called the labyrinth which is comprised of two essential parts:

  • The cochlea: Sound is carried to your brain by this spiral shaped cavity.
  • The vestibular system: This is a complex collection of tubes that transmits balance information to your brain.

As the fluid circulates in the vestibular system, your brain utilizes the information to determine orientation. That’s what gives you a sense of equilibrium.

When these signals from your ear are interrupted or distorted, a feeling of dizziness or vertigo can happen. The same array of underlying causes of hearing loss often are also responsible for interrupting the balance signals that your brain receives from the vestibular system.

Specific causes of balance loss

Exactly what types of hearing loss can cause balance problems is something that researchers have been working to figure out. There are a couple of conditions which impact both hearing and balance. Here are a couple of those conditions:

  • Labrynthitis: When the labyrinth of the inner ear gets an infection this condition comes about. The ear will lose its ability to hear and create equilibrium when the labyrinth becomes swollen. Medications, including steroids, are usually the course of treatment. Symptoms go away once the swelling of the inner ear goes down.
  • Meniere’s Disease: This condition affects the inner ear. Symptoms include outbreaks of hearing loss and dizziness. This chronic condition usually gets worse over time.

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

What are the symptoms of a balance disorder?

Balance disorders don’t always have an impact on your ability to hear. Most often, balance condition symptoms include dizziness and vertigo. This may sometimes be accompanied by nausea. People may also experience vision problems or a sense of “floating”.

If you encounter any of these symptoms, speak with your provider about possible treatment solutions.

How does hearing loss increase fall risk?

It’s no secret that balance and hearing are closely associated. But the exact nature of that connection is still a bit uncertain. The connection between hearing loss and falls, for instance, doesn’t make clear the causes behind that relationship.

Here are a few possible links between hearing loss and the risk of taking a tumble:

  • Cognitive drain and fatigue: A noticeable increase in fatigue is often a consequence of hearing loss. This is mostly because hearing loss forces your brain to work harder to hear. This takes a significant amount of cognitive energy, resulting in fatigue. This fatigue and the related mental drain can make falls more likely.
  • Diminished situational awareness: Being oriented to what’s occurring in physical reality is largely accomplished by your ears. There might be a tripping hazard right around the corner, like a family pet, that you might not notice if you have untreated hearing loss.
  • Isolation: An increase in social separation and hearing loss have been known to have a connection for a long time. If you fall, you might not have anyone around you who can help you get back up or call for help. Your risk of sustaining a serious injury will be increased as a result.

Enhancing balance and reducing the risk of falls

How can you deal with balance issues? For the majority of people, the first step will be attempting to determine the root cause of your balance disorder. Depending on the cause, antibiotics or steroids may be used. Any nausea and vomiting associated with these balance and hearing problems may necessitate other medication. It’s also important, in some cases, to get any hearing loss treated as well.

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

  • Talk to a physical therapist: Your cognitive, visual, and balance systems can be refreshed with the help of physical and occupational therapists. This will go a long way to prevent falls.
  • Talk to an audiologist: Your hearing health can be managed with our help and we can also fit you with hearing aids. This can help ensure that your risk of falling associated with hearing loss is as low as possible.

Don’t avoid getting quality healthcare

Falls can cause serious damage as you age. Balance disorders, hearing loss, and a combination of the two can significantly raise your risk of falling. That’s why prevention is so important. You will enjoy a more comfortable life, have more quality time with your family and friends, and have more time in your home by preventing falls. We can help you with vertigo, dizziness, and balance issues so call for an appointment right away.

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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.

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