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Does Hearing Loss Affect Your Balance?

Travelers balancing on a log in the woods while hiking

Yes. In fact, you’re at an increased risk of balance issues and falls if you live with untreated hearing loss.

How Your Ears Regulate Balance

To understand how hearing loss influences imbalance, you need to know how your inner ear works.

It’s made up of the cochlea and semicircular canals that are connected by the vestibule. The cochlea is responsible for your hearing, and the semicircular canals function in tandem with your visual and skeletal systems to keep you balanced.

The semicircular canals contain fluid and hair-like cells that move when you turn or tilt your head. The hair cells transmit the direction of that movement to your brain to help you interpret your spatial awareness.

The Connection Between Hearing Loss and Balance

The hair cells in your inner ear convert sound vibrations into electrical signals so your auditory nerve can send them to your brain for interpretation. Damage to those hair cells affects their ability to perform their roles in hearing and controlling balance.

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when your inner ear or auditory nerve are harmed. Conductive hearing loss is categorized as a problem with the outer or middle ear. Any issues with your inner, middle or outer ear can impact your ability to regulate your balance.

Types of Balance Disorders

Meniere’s disease: This condition affects the function of your semicircular canals. It causes severe dizziness, vertigo, hearing loss, ear pressure or fullness, tinnitus and balance issues.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV): There are calcium crystals in your vestibule that contribute to balance regulation. If those crystals get dislodged, you may feel dizzy or disoriented when you move your head.

Acoustic neuroma: This benign, slow-growing tumor usually develops on the auditory nerve in your inner ear and impacts the structures responsible for hearing and balance.

Vestibular neuritis: You could develop bacterial or viral vestibular neuritis after contracting the flu or a cold. The inflammation of the vestibular nerve may lead to sudden dizziness, imbalance, nausea and trouble walking.

Labyrinthitis: Any ear infection can affect your hearing. This infection occurs in the semicircular canals and can induce vertigo, dizziness, tinnitus, ear pressure and involuntary eye movement.

Perilymph fistula: A hole or tear in the membrane that separates your middle and inner ears causes fluid to leak into your middle ear, resulting in hearing loss, vertigo and a sense of fullness or pressure.

Hearing Associates is committed to providing you with comprehensive hearing health services and balance tests for hearing loss and balance issues. Call 888-760-2032 or contact us online to schedule your appointment.