Hearing And Balance

The Link Between Hearing and Balance

If you're experiencing symptoms of vertigo or another balance disorder—we can help. While the connection may be hard to see at first, hearing and balance problems are often related. Learn more about the inner ear to discover the link and how we can be your best resource for finding treatment.

Finding the Connection

The way we receive signals that direct balance and sound perception are similar. Before those signals communicate with the brain, both must travel through a structure in the inner ear called the labyrinth. Sound waves interact with the cochlea, while the vestibule and semicircular canals sense movement changes. These paths work independently, but their proximity in the labyrinth means our sense of hearing and balance are closely connected.

Balance Disorders and Hearing Loss

There are consequences to this close connection. If you receive a head injury that damages your inner ear, you could experience a balance disorder in addition to hearing loss. Having a balance disorder will not create hearing problems or vice versa—but the underlying damage that causes one may also impair the other.

Causes of Inner Ear Damage

Injury

Injury-induced inner ear damage is often the result of head trauma. A fall or a blow to the head may cause dizziness and hearing loss. If you've ever hit your head, you may have noticed ringing in your ears, muffled sound, or difficulty staying upright. These often fade quickly, but when inner ear damage is severe, you may experience lasting hearing loss and balance trouble.

Infection

Generally, inner ear infections are viral. These can cause nerve inflammation that disrupts the normal function of the labyrinth, so you could notice balance and hearing problems similar to those caused by other types of inner ear damage.

Internal Conditions

The most common cause of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This occurs when calcium crystals shift and float through the inner ear, causing dizziness. In rare cases, inner ear damage can be the result of a tumor or chronic disease.

Treatment

If you have symptoms of a balance disorder—dizziness, nausea, blurred vision—we can help. We will assess your symptoms, perform a hearing exam to determine if you've also experienced hearing loss, and start a treatment plan. A variety of tests can help diagnose your condition, including:

  • Hearing exams
  • Blood tests
  • Brain imaging
  • Balance tests
  • Measurements of muscle movement

If you have a viral infection, you may only need to rest for balance and hearing symptoms to improve with time. For chronic balance issues like vertigo, you can manage symptoms with medication, and some issues like BPPV can resolve with physical therapy. If you've experienced lasting hearing loss, we might suggest hearing aids. There are various assistive devices available now, and we can help you find the best fit for you. Contact us today to set up your next appointment and get started.

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