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5 Things to Know About Hearing and Balance

If you struggle with moments of dizziness or a sense of vertigo, experts state that this is a fairly common feeling. Experts estimate that in the course of their lifetime, about four in ten people visit a doctor because of a significant episode of dizziness.  This loss of balance could mean a sensation of floating, spinning or even faintness, which are all associated with the inner ear. 


While it may be common to experience a dizzy spell, it is important to know whether you need to visit a Topeka Ear, Nose and Throat physician to learn why you are experiencing this sensation. Here are 5 things to know about hearing and balance and how your dizzy sensation could be connected to your hearing loss. 


1. What causes balance disorders?

There are many causes of balance disorders including medications, ear infections, a head injury, as well as many other factors that affect the inner ear or brain. Dizziness can also occur from low blood pressure when you stand up too quickly. 


According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, problems that affect the skeletal or visual systems, such as arthritis or eye muscle imbalance, can also cause balance disorders. It is important to know that your risk of having balance problems increases as you get older. 


2. How does the ear affect balance?

The ear is a sensory organ that picks up sound waves, allowing us to hear. This sensory organ is also essential to our sense of balance. The vestibular system, known as the organ of balance, is found inside the inner ear. 


The vestibular system is made up of three semicircular canals and two otolith organs, known as the utricle and saccule. The semicircular canals and the otolith organs are filled with fluid. 


Each of the three semicircular canals is responsible for a specific direction of head movement: 

  • One of the canals responds to the head tilting upwards or downwards

  • One responds to it tilting to the right or to the left, and 

  • One responds to it turning sideways. 


The vestibular system sends information to the brain to process and then it is sent on to other organs that need this information, such as the eyes, joints, or muscles. This allows us to keep our balance and know what position our body is in. 


3. Are balance disorders related to hearing loss?

John Hopkins conducted a study which concluded that individuals between the ages of 40 and 69 who experienced mild hearing loss were three times more likely to have reported falling within the last year. If the hearing loss is greater, the risk of falling increases. If you are the caregiver for a senior, not only do you need to monitor their risk of falling, but it is important for you to check on their hearing as well. The two are intertwined


4. How can balance disorders be diagnosed?

In order to diagnose if your symptoms are being caused by problems in your inner ear, or vestibular system, our doctors at Topeka ENT are likely to recommend several tests. A few of the test that may be recommended are as follows:


  • Hearing tests - Difficulties with hearing are frequently associated with balance problems. 


  • Posturography test - The doctor will have you wear a safety harness, while you try to remain standing on a moving platform. This will indicate which parts of your balance system you most rely upon. 


  • Electronystagmography and Videonystagmography Tests - Both of these tests record your eye movements, which play a role in vestibular function and balance. 


  • Imaging tests - MRI and CT scans can help your doctor determine if underlying medical conditions might be causing your balance problems. 


5. What are some conditions of balance disorders?

When you are experiencing balance problems that are disrupting your life or putting your safety at risk, it is important to be evaluated by a physician at Topeka ENT. The signs that you might have a balance disorder include: prolonged or extreme dizziness or a spinning sensation when you are not moving (vertigo). 


Some underlying conditions that can cause dizziness and balance problems include:

  • Diabetes

  • Heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Problems with vision, thyroid, nerves or blood vessels


Treatment Options For Balance Disorders

The doctors at Topeka Ear, Nose and Throat will prescribe a treatment based on the cause of your balance problems.


Your treatment may include:

  • Balance Retraining Exercises - Physical therapists trained in balance problems are able to design a program of balance retraining and exercise. Therapy can help you maintain physical activity. 


  • Positioning Procedures - If you are diagnosed with an inner ear disorder, the therapist may conduct a procedure that clears particles out of your inner ear and deposits them into a different area of your ear. The procedure involves maneuvering the position of your head. 


  • Diet and Lifestyle Changes - Your doctor may recommend dietary changes that will help to ease your symptoms. You may need to limit salt intake and avoid other dietary triggers such as caffeine, alcohol and certain ingredients. 


If you are experiencing disruption of hearing or balance, you should schedule a visit with one of our physicians or one of our audiologists. At Topeka Ear Nose and Throat, our audiologists work with patients of all ages for a variety of hearing and balance problems. Learn more about how hearing loss is treated and the comprehensive care we provide, or schedule your appointment today.


Sources:

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders


Mayoclinic.org - Balance Disorders


National Institute on Aging - Older Adults and Balance Problems

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