Hearing loss doesn’t just affect how you hear

Over the past several decades, doctors and researchers have been doing study after study on hearing loss and slowly discovering all the effects hearing loss can have on your life and your body. For example, the connection between hearing loss and dementia or hearing loss and heart disease.

While we know now that hearing loss has a lot of physical, cognitive, and emotional effects on a person, did you know that hearing loss can also affect your ability to balance? Let’s talk about why and how.

How does balance work, and how are the ears connected?

The way your body keeps you balanced is an incredibly complex process and system that relies on a few different parts of your body and your brain. Of course, your eyes play a big part in keeping you balanced, allowing you to observe the environment around you and use objects as anchors to keep you steady, but your ears play a surprisingly important role in this process, too.

Let’s talk about ear anatomy for a moment. In your inner ear, there are two major systems – the system that’s responsible for hearing, the cochlea, and the system that’s responsible for balance, called the vestibular system. While both systems have different functions, they are still connected to each other in the way sensory information is processed and passed to the brain.

So how does the vestibular system work? To put it simply, a combination of inner ear fluid and specialized cells detect the motion of your head, pressure changes, and gravity and send those signals to the brain, which then balances out the rest of your body in response. Pretty cool, right? 

Does hearing loss affect your balance?

While your cochlea and vestibular system have different functions – one controlling hearing and the other controlling balance – they are still very much dependent on each other, and if one system isn’t functioning properly, the other may be affected as a result. 

The most common reason that hearing loss and balance are connected is that the damage that causes the hearing loss is not isolated to the hearing parts of your ear. In other words, if you physically damage your cochlea, the other parts of your ear may take some of that damage, too.

Another connection is that hearing loss makes it harder for you to process sensory information, namely sound, from the environment around you and makes it harder for you to place yourself spatially in the environment. 

How can I treat balance issues caused by hearing loss? 

While not all balance issues are caused by a hearing-related issue, it’s not uncommon for someone experiencing hearing loss to also have balance issues. So, for those having trouble balancing as a result of hearing loss or hearing damage, one of the biggest ways to treat the issue is to simply treat the hearing loss! 

The first step in that process is to get a hearing test. You can reach out to your local hearing care clinic (like the folks at Beltone Tristate!) to schedule a test, and a provider can diagnose your issue and help you find the best treatment option. 

More often than not, hearing aids will be the first line of defense in treating hearing loss, which may, in turn, treat your balance problems, as well. By design, hearing aids help your ear capture and process more sounds, and that increase in sounds that your ears can process gives your body more sensory “landmarks” to reference in maintaining your natural equilibrium, helping you stay better balanced.

If you’ve been experiencing balance issues but you’re not sure why then it may be time to talk to a hearing care professional and get a hearing test to see if hearing loss is the cause. 

Experiencing hearing loss can be scary enough as it is, and losing your balance or feeling dizzy certainly doesn’t help. Schedule an appointment with one of our Beltone Tristate providers to start moving toward better hearing, better balance, and better health today.