Everything in our bodies are connected. The failure of one organ can lead to another. Does that mean that hearing loss can affect your balance?
What is the balance system?
The balance system has three components. The inner ear sends a signal to your brain giving it coordinates about the direction and speed your head is moving. This is done through the semicircular canals in the inner ear. The inner ear also sends a signal to your brain through the otolithic organs (the saccule, which gives your body vertical acceleration information, and the utricle, which does the same for horizontal movement) to let it know when you are moving in a straight line. The second component is made up of the visual system, which sends visual information to the brain about the body’s position as it relates to its surroundings via the eyes. The third component of the balance system is the musculoskeletal system, which relays information from the muscles and joints of the feet and legs to the brain to maintain our overall balance.
Together, these three components work to keep the body grounded in respect to the earth’s gravity. When our balance system is working properly, we will not see objects as blurs when we are moving, and we are able to sit upright and stand without falling over.
Does hearing loss affect your balance?
Hearing loss on its own does not affect your balance. However, if you are experiencing hearing loss in tandem with balance issues, you could be suffering from a balance disorder.
What is a balance disorder?
A balance disorder is a disturbance in your balance system that makes you feel uneasy and dizzy. It also gives you the sensation that you are spinning or unsteady, and some people even report that they feel lightheaded and giddy.
What causes a balance disorder?
Balance disorders have many causes. The most common are ear infections, injuries to the head, blood circulation problems of the inner ear, tumours, certain medications, low blood pressure, arthritis and eye muscle imbalance (strabismus).
What are the symptoms of a balance disorder?
Besides difficulty maintaining your balance, a balance disorder may leave you nauseous with a fluctuating heart rate. You may also experience anxiety, depression, varying blood pressure and diarrhea. Depending on the severity of your balance disorder, you may also find yourself bedridden with headaches, muscle and neck stiffness and extreme tiredness.
What should you do if you have a balance disorder?
If you notice any of the above symptoms, coupled with hearing loss, you should go see your doctor immediately. Your doctor will run tests to determine the cause of your balance disorder and provide treatment so that you can regain balance control. If you have never experienced hearing loss until now, your doctor may also send you to an ENT specialist (ears, nose and throat) or an otologist (ear specialist) to figure out the direct cause of your hearing loss and if you need to be fitted for hearing aids.