Hearing and Balance
Your ears don't just help you hear - they work in conjunction with other organs in your body to keep you balanced! If you have a continuous sense of balance, you can stay upright and avoid falling. It is essential to understand the role of the ears in balance before we touch upon balance disorders and how they are treated.
Balance and Hearing
Balance depends on a continuous interplay between the sensory organs and the brain. To maintain equilibrium, three central systems must transmit sensory information to the brain: your skin, joints and muscles, your eyes, and your ears.
Your Skin, Joints, and Muscles
All parts of the body are linked to the skin, joints, and muscles. These organs use the nerves to gather overall knowledge about many things from temperature, heat, and humidity up to changes in altitude. The brain collects information from the body and then sends messages back to the body to tell it how to respond.
By scanning the horizon and the environment around you, the eyes can feel the body's location in space. By understanding the relationship between the body and objects around it, the brain can predict how certain elements could affect the body's balance capacity.
The Role of Ears in Balance
The inner ear transmits the head's position to the part of the brain that controls the body's movement. The inner ear underneath the brain contains three small tubes lined with little hairs called cilia. These are connected to the vestibular system, which mainly serves to maintain our balance. Each cilia hair connects to a nerve cell that carries signals to the brain as it moves its head.
That's why spinning around can make you dizzy because the fluid in your ears also turns with your body. It takes a moment when you finally stop for the liquid in the inner ear to stop spinning.
Any direction in which the cilia is moved makes the fluid move in our inner ears, which provides information to the brain. The brain uses this information from the vestibular system to maintain balance.
As you can tell, this is a complex system that relies on a lot of moving parts. So when we begin to experience hearing loss, leaving it untreated could compromise the essential elements of the vestibular system and risk losing our balance.
Many people who have difficulties with their balance find the problem in their ears. Ear balance disorders can make you feel unstable, shaky, or feel like you're in constant motion. These vertigo sensations can seriously influence your ability to walk, stand upright, and even sit.
Study Shows that Hearing Aids Can Improve Balance
A recent study found that the use of hearing aids can significantly improve balance issues. The Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis conducted a study showing the benefits of balance improvements for older adults using hearing aids, thereby reducing the risk of falling.
Standard equilibrium tests were used in the study to measure participants' balance with their hearing aids. The study concluded that to help maintain stability, participants appeared to use aural reference points or landmarks through hearing aids to gather information to help them remain balanced.
This study has shown that sound is not just the inner ear balance system that contributes to postural balance and can help alleviate equilibrium.
Treat Your Hearing Loss to Help Improve Your Balance
Have you been experiencing balance problems? Do you suffer from dizziness or vertigo? Contact us here to see how treating your hearing loss can help you become more active and stable on your feet. See how hearing aids can strengthen your connections with others and help you stay upright and physically independent.