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How Hearing Impacts Balance
Did you know that your balance relies on your sight, sensations and hearing? In order for us to carry out everyday movements and tasks like walking, sitting and running, our brains have to process information coming from multiple sources continually. When one of these sources is faulty – such as our hearing system – it can lead to balance issues that need your attention.
The Balance System
Standing, sitting, walking and a host of other movements we make every day are often taken for granted until something interferes with our ability to function. The body’s balance system is complex, but it relies on three basic features, sight, hearing and sensations in the feet and legs.
The balance system in the ear is also called the “vestibular system,” and along with sight and sensations, it gets information from tiny organs in the inner ear. That is why changes in your hearing can affect your balance and why correcting your hearing can improve your life quality.
The Hearing Organs
The vestibular system is the name given to the labyrinth of canals and tiny bones in the inner ear responsible for the body’s balance; it consists of organs, cells, bones and hairs that use sound to send information to the brain that it can use in combination with data from other areas.
Two of the main hearing organs in the body’s hearing system are the utricle and the saccule – these are known as otolith organs; they are also known as gravity receptors because they are responsive to gravitational forces that send balance information to other parts of the system.
Hearing and Balance
Hearing and balance are closely connected in the inner ear; in fact, they share the same neural pathway leading directly to the brain. This pathway is called the vestibulocochlear nerve, but although balance and hearing share the same space, they are dedicated to different functions.
Within the pathway, hearing and balance have separate divisions, but they interact, meaning that an issue with one can become an issue with the other. If you experience hearing loss or dizziness, you might also experience balance issues resulting from issues in your inner ear.
As we age, our body becomes less efficient thanks to the breakdown of cells and changes in hormones, and this can lead to a range of balance issues from different sources. The body’s balance system might be affected by a loss of sight, a loss of hearing or a loss of sensations.
Studies show that around twenty percent of American adults have some balance issues such as dizziness or unsteadiness, and around 35% of American adults over forty have a balance dysfunction. Changes in the vestibular system are common in balance conditions.
If you have balance issues, it could be related to an issue with your inner ear, which is why you should visit an audiologist for some testing. Of course, balance issues can be physical or related to another system, but since balance is an interconnected system, some exploration is needed.
An audiologist can conduct a series of tests to find out if the issue is related to the vestibular system or if it originates somewhere else. Even if the balance issue doesn’t originate in the hearing system, it will affect it in some way so that audiology testing can help root out the issue.
Whether your balance issues are related to your hearing or not, you will need some treatment for them, balance issues can affect your quality of life, and they can be a health risk in your daily life. Treatments range from lifestyle changes and rehabilitation to special hearing devices.
After running some tests at your audiologist’s office, you should have a better idea of where the balance issues originate. If it’s a hearing issue, this can be resolved with a hearing device depending on the symptoms; in other cases, you might need some training to compensate.
When people encounter balance issues, there is a tendency to assume it’s a physical condition or a mental disturbance. In fact, balance issues can originate in a number of places and affect different systems because they are part of an interconnected balance system in the body.
Most people don’t realize that their hearing is connected to this balance system and that issues with the inner ear can cause dizziness and unsteadiness. If you encounter a balance issue, talk to one of the friendly team members at Quality Hearing Aid Center by calling (248) 430-8791.