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 The Connection Between Hearing and Balance Explained

By January 13, 2022No Comments

Hearing and balance share a connection and when something goes wrong in one, it can affect the other. If you notice that you are frequently experiencing dizziness and unsteadiness, it is very possible your hearing and balance are not aligned. Lake Shore Audiology specializes in hearing and balance testing and can help you learn more about your balance system, balance problems, and treatment options.

Understanding the Parts of the Ear

The ear is made up of three parts : outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The inner ear is the part of the ear that has to do with balance. When the inner ear is not functioning correctly, the brain receives nerve impulses that are no longer equal, causing it to perceive this information as distorted or off balance.

1) Outer Ear: The outer ear is made up of the pinna (the part of your ear you see on the side of your head) and the ear canal. The outer ear helps you determine which direction sound is coming from.

2) Middle Ear: The middle ear starts at your eardrum and includes three tiny bones called ossicles. Sound will cause the eardrum and ossicles to move, sending a signal to the brain.

 3) Inner Ear: The inner ear is home to the cochlea, semicircular canals, and the main parts of the vestibular system. The vestibular system is one of the sensory systems that provides your brain with information about balance, motion, and the location of your head and body in relation to your surroundings.

The cochlea and the semicircular canals job is to keep you balanced. Semicircular canals look like three tiny connected tubes that are filled with fluid and lined with tiny hairs. When you move or tilt your head, the fluid in the semicircular canals slosh around, moving these tiny hairs. The hairs then send this position information as signals through the vestibular nerve to your brain. The brain interprets these signals and sends messages to your muscles to help keep you balanced.

To better visualize how this works, consider the following question : Have you ever been spinning around and when you stop you feel dizzy and lightheaded? This happens because the fluid in your semicircular canals is continuing to move around for a while, which gives your brain the idea that you’re still spinning even though you aren’t. Once that fluid stops moving, the dizziness also stops.

Symptoms and Signs of a Balance Disorder

Balance disorders are different depending on the person and there is a range of different symptoms that one may experience. Examples of symptoms that may indicate you have a balance disorders include :

  • difficulty walking and moving around;
  • dizziness;
  • falling;
  • headaches;
  • lightheadedness;
  • motion sickness;
  • nausea;
  • unsteadiness;
  • vertigo (e.g., a feeling that the room is spinning); 
  • visual problems (e.g., blurry vision).

Balance Testing

It’s important to see an audiologist if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms listed above. Lake Shore Audiology performs various balance tests dependent on the symptoms one experiences. Two balance tests we specialize in include :

  • Vestibular Balance Testing evaluates patients with imbalances or dizziness. These results are associated with the central and peripheral vestibular systems as well as other motor/balance areas of the body. 
  • VNG Balance Testing or Videonystagmography evaluates the function of the vestibular portion of the inner ear for patients who are experiencing symptoms of vertigo, unsteadiness, dizziness, and other balance disorders. Hearing evaluation tests are frequently combined with vestibular studies for the identification of inner ear disorders. 

Hearing and balance are vital components to your well being. Call us today at 716-674-4188 to make an appointment with an audiologist to get your hearing and balance in check.  We will help provide you with treatment options that work best for you.

Article adapted from healthyhearing.com