The Link Between Balance and Hearing Loss

Woman experiencing dizziness, vertigo, and balance issues.

Your health can be considerably impacted by falling down and as you get older, this is especially true. That’s why more thoroughly understanding the possible causes of falls is so essential. This kind of awareness can help you avoid situations where you’re more likely to trip and sustain an injury. For instance, as researchers have learned more, it’s become clear that improving flexibility and strength is critical to minimizing fall risks.

But there are also other important factors to consider. Researchers have observed a perhaps not so surprising connection between hearing loss and fall risks. A study, conducted 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 those who did not have hearing loss.

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

Can balance problems result from hearing loss?

It’s common for individuals to think of balance as a foot and leg thing. It’s true that good footwork can help you avoid falls, but the fact is that the majority of your body’s sense of balance begins in your ears.

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

  • The cochlea: Sound is carried to your brain by this spiral shaped cavity.
  • The vestibular system: Balance information is transmitted to your brain by this complex collection of tubes.

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

A feeling of dizziness and vertigo can be the result if signals from your ears are distorted or disrupted. The same range of inherent causes of hearing loss frequently are also responsible for disrupting the balance signals that your brain receives from the vestibular system.

Particular causes of balance loss

Exactly what kinds of hearing loss can trigger balance issues is something that researchers have been working to figure out. Both balance and hearing can be affected by some conditions. Some of those causes include the following conditions:

  • Meniere’s Disease: This condition impacts the inner ear. Symptoms include outbreaks of hearing loss and dizziness. Over time this condition normally gets worse.
  • Labrynthitis: When the labyrinth of the inner ear gets an infection this condition happens. The ear will lose its ability to hear and create equilibrium when the labyrinth becomes swollen. Treatment often involves steroids or other medications. Symptoms go away once the inflammation of the inner ear goes down.

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

What are the symptoms of a balance condition?

Though hearing loss can be a common presentation, not every balance disorder affects your hearing. Most often, balance condition symptoms include dizziness and vertigo. Nausea, vision problems, and the sense of “floating” can also happen.

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

How does hearing loss raise fall risk?

That hearing and balance are closely linked does not seem in dispute. But the exact nature of that connection is still a bit uncertain. For example, the connection between hearing loss and falls doesn’t clarify the reason for that relationship.

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

  • Diminished situational awareness: Being oriented to what’s happening in physical reality is mainly carried out by your ears. With untreated hearing loss, you may be less likely to notice a tripping hazard right around the corner (a family pet, for example).
  • Isolation: Hearing loss has long been linked to an increase in social isolation. You may be alone with no one to call for help or help you get up if you fall. This can significantly increase your danger of serious injury in the case of a fall.
  • Cognitive drain and fatigue: Those with hearing loss often note a significant increase in fatigue. This is mainly because hearing loss forces your brain to work harder to hear. The additional cognitive energy needed to process sound can be fatiguing. Falls are more likely with this fatigue and mental drain.

Solutions for balance, hearing loss, and reducing falls

How are balance problems treated? For most people, the first step will be trying to determine the underlying cause of your balance condition. In some cases, steroids or antibiotics may help. Other medications might help with nausea and associated vomiting. In certain situations, it’s also a good idea to ensure any underlying hearing loss is also treated.

Decreasing 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 instances, physical and occupational therapists can help revitalize your visual, mental, and balance systems. This can help you maintain your balance and avoid falls.
  • Talk to an audiologist: Your hearing health can be addressed with our help and we can also fit you with hearing aids. 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

As you grow older, falling can result in serious damage. Balance disorders, hearing loss, and a combination of the two can significantly increase your fall risk. Prevention becomes so essential for this reason. Avoiding a fall can give you more time in your home, more time with your family, and more happiness and comfort in your everyday life. We can help you with vertigo, dizziness, and balance problems so call for an appointment right away.

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.