Feeling Dizzy? Hearing Aids May Improve Your Balance
The ear is responsible for much more than just hearing. Within the inner ear are fluid-filled semicircular canals as well as two organs known as the utricle and saccule. Situated next to the cochlea, these organs detect the horizontal and vertical movements of your head, while the semicircular canals recognize tilting motions. Sensory hair cells relay this information to your brain, providing a sense of stability and preventing unwanted dizziness. Were it not for these organs, activities such as driving or using an elevator could be nauseating.
When hearing loss is profound enough to seriously impact the inner ear, these fluid-filled organs cannot function properly and may lead to balance problems or vertigo. An audiologist or other hearing care professional can examine your ear to determine whether hearing loss is contributing to dizziness and balance issues. Schedule an appointment immediately if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Hearing loss and/or ear infections
- Low blood pressure
- Discomfort in the chest
- Falls or trouble walking
- Weakness or numbness in arms or legs
- Impaired vision or speech
- Confusion or faintness
- Traumatic head injury
How hearing aids can help
In addition to improving cognitive ability and lowering symptoms of depression and anxiety, hearing aids have been shown to alleviate balance problems. Considering recent research has shown how those aged 40 to 69 with at least a mild hearing loss are nearly three times as likely to experience falls, this is a significant discovery. For the elderly, many of whom suffer from profound hearing loss, this could mean lowering the risk of falls that could be life-threatening.
Those who walk around in the dark may find themselves unable to follow a straight line or retain their balance because of a lack of visual information. Likewise, when hearing aids restore the ability to detect where sounds are located in space, it is much easier to orient the body without feeling dizzy. In fact, a study done by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that patients aged 65 to 91 who had been fitted with hearing aids in both ears were more likely to perform better on their balance exams when their hearing aids were turned on.
For this study, participants were asked to stand with their eyes closed either with one foot in front of the other or on a foam pad. In order to compare the results, these tests were performed twice, once with the hearing aids turned on and once with them turned off. When the test was completed with the hearing aids in use, participants were able to retain their balance for a longer period of time. While the sample size for this study only contained 14 participants, the data show that the differences in performance are statistically significant and the experiment could likely be repeated with a much larger population with similar results.
Protect your hearing and your balance
Balance disorders can be debilitating and may occur even when the patient is lying down. While these disorders are not usually caused by hearing loss alone, the presence of a hearing loss may be a sign that there is a problem with the vestibular system of the inner ear. Some ototoxic drugs have also been known to cause balance issues, so be sure to speak with your doctor before starting any new medications to see if they may damage the inner ear.
No matter the severity of your hearing loss, it is important to have your ears checked regularly by a hearing care professional to identify any issues before they become debilitating. Use our online locator to find a hearing care professional in your area and begin your hearing restoration process today.