Q: I’ve heard that my hearing and sense of balance are interconnected. How is that possible?
A: It might seem surprising, but it’s true — your ears and balance go somewhat hand in hand, providing another reason to take care of your hearing wellness. Let’s take a closer look.
Your inner ear includes the cochlea and the vestibular, or balance system. The cochlea is where sound signals are captured, converted to electrical signals, and sent to the brain to be interpreted. The vestibular system, which comprises three bony canals and two pouches, tells your brain where your head is in space and when and how it’s moving.
Both hearing and balance depend heavily on the status of your inner ear, so it makes sense that what affects one may affect the other. Though not all hearing issues involve balance problems and not all balance disorders involve hearing-related conditions, they can intersect.
Take Ménière’s disease, for example, an inner-ear disorder that impacts both balance and hearing. Those living with the condition, which affects about 12 out of 1,000 people worldwide per the Hearing Health Foundation, experience sudden symptoms that can last for hours at a time and severely impact quality of life:
- Extreme dizziness, vertigo, or the feeling of spinning
- Progressive hearing loss that can become permanent
- Ringing, humming, or buzzing in the ears, called “tinnitus”
- A fullness or pressure sensation in the ear
Ménière’s disease remains a mystery regarding its exact cause, and diagnosing it can prove challenging due to fluctuations in symptoms. It can, however, be potentially controlled or managed through approaches such as medication, diet, devices, or cognitive therapy. Some patients might even improve on their own. Some might require surgery for severe vertigo.
Like other systems within the body, hearing and balance help reflect the many ways in which various functions are interconnected and potentially interdependent. It’s one of the reasons taking care of your hearing health supports your overall wellness.
If you’re concerned about a hearing or balance problem — yours or a loved one’s — contact us today to schedule an evaluation. We’re here to help!