It has been said that the inner ear is a balance organ first, a hearing organ second. The snail-shaped inner ear is divided into the cochlea at one end and the utricle, saccule, and semicircular canals at the other. The cochlea contains the hearing organs. The other structures house the organs of balance and are filled with fluid shared by the cochlea. For the majority of audiology patients we concern ourselves mostly with the cochlea and hearing deficits. However, we also have many patients with ear-related balance or vertigo disorders. Should we manage patients differently when they present with problems of both hearing AND balance?
Two of the most common health conditions among the elderly are hearing loss and dizziness/imbalance. There are also many younger patients who have lost hearing and also have poor balance systems. Both sections of the inner ear may have been affected at the same time, as with labyrinthitis or Meniere’s disease, or they may be unrelated. It may seem odd to suggest a patient might improve his or her balance by wearing hearing aids, however, a recent study has found just that.
A study published in the Laryngoscope journal has found that patients with poor equilibrium improved their balance-related posture adjustments while wearing hearing aids. It appears we use sound as a guide to the world around us and our movement, much like we use sight and sense of touch. We can better gauge where our bodies are in space when we can hear the environment around us. Amplified hearing may also promote greater confidence, alertness and a sense of connection to ones surroundings. Risk of falls and injury are diminished when balance improves.
Do not underestimate the power of good hearing! Find out if we can help you with hearing AND imbalance. We want to keep you on a Clear Path to good hearing and ear health!