The link between your ears, hearing and balance is an interesting one. Your ears help you to balance, being an important part of your balance system, which also includes your eyes and your musculoskeletal system. If one part of your balance system isn't working as it should, it can lead to symptoms and a diagnosis of a balance disorder. If you have hearing loss, it could mean you also develop a balance disorder because the part of the inner ear responsible for balance is disrupted. At Pacific Audiology Clinic, we can help you to understand the link between your hearing and balance.

The balance system of the inner ear

The inner ear contains a balance system called the labyrinth, which is made up of three canals. The canals are connected to the hearing organ, the cochlea. Each of the semicircular canals of the labyrinth detects movement in a particular direction. They do this by detecting the movement of fluid within the canals and sending signals to the brain. One canal detects when your head nods up and down, one detects when it moves side to side and one detects when your head tilts down toward your shoulder. If the inner ear is affected by illness or injury, it can make you feel dizzy, give you vertigo or make it difficult to balance. Many people have felt dizzy when they have a cold and are congested.

Symptoms of a balance disorder

When your balance system is disturbed, including in the inner ear, it causes a balance disorder. It might be difficult to maintain your balance or you might have vertigo, which makes it feel like everything is spinning. Being off-balance can make it difficult to walk and even stand. Balance disorders can also cause nausea and vomiting, and can cause psychological symptoms too, such as anxiety. Symptoms can come and go, and might be felt when performing certain actions or moves.

Some of the things that might cause balance disorders include head injuries, ear infections, some medications, low blood pressure or blood circulation problems. If you experience both hearing loss and balance issues, you should have your ears checked to see what the issue might be.

Hearing loss and balance problems

Some types of hearing loss and specific hearing conditions can also cause balance problems. Some illnesses are temporary, while others could last longer. For example, labyrinthitis is an inner infection, which can cause hearing loss, tinnitus and dizziness or vertigo. Meniere's disease is another condition that can affect both hearing and balance. It causes pressure in the endolymphatic system in the inner ear and labyrinth.

However, you might not need to have a specific condition or disease to experience balance problems. Studies have found that some people with hearing loss resulting from a range of causes experience balance issues. One study in the journal Laryngoscope found that a third of the 40 deaf children they studied, who had cochlear implants, experienced balance issues.

If you are having problems with your balance, it could be related to hearing loss or a condition that is affecting your ears. Hearing loss by itself is unlikely to cause balance issues, but any damage or disruption in the inner ear could result in a balance disorder. If you experience hearing loss and balance issues together, it might indicate an underlying condition. You could have an illness or ear condition that affects both your hearing and your balance. The problem could be temporary and easily treatable, but sometimes you might have a more permanent condition that requires treatment. If you are experiencing issues with balance or dizziness and think that you might also have hearing loss, your audiologist can help you to investigate the cause.

When you see an audiologist, they will discuss your medical history and any other important information that might be pertinent. They can examine your ears and perform tests relating to your hearing or balance. Problems that affect your inner ear could leave you with hearing loss and experiencing a range of issues related to balance, including dizziness or feeling unsteady. Your audiologist can detect these problems or rule them out to make sure you get the right treatment or therapy.

Get in touch with Pacific Audiology Clinic to enquire about our services and learn more about what we can do for you. You can send us a message via the contact page or call (503) 719-4208. Take a look at our other pages to find more information about hearing health and how to protect your ears.