Balance and hearing are both handled by the ear, so it’s natural to wonder if they’re related. If so, does the use of a hearing aid affect one’s balance? Those are both interesting questions to ponder, but the answers are simpler than you think. While it’s true the body uses the inner ear’s labyrinth in addition to visual and other sensory data as key elements in maintaining your balance, the parts of the ear that relate to balance are not the same parts that are primarily concerned with hearing.
To make it simpler, balance disorders and hearing disorders tend to be different. While there are some conditions that cause both hearing loss and balance issues, the symptoms still need to be treated differently. That means your hearing aid should not affect your balance. If using a hearing aid does seem to cause spells of vertigo, it’s time to investigate why and how that’s happening.
Hearing and Vertigo
To understand why hearing aids are not a vertigo risk you need to understand the relationship between the parts of the ears that hear and the parts that are responsible for balance. The cochlea is the part of the ear primarily concerned with receiving sound and converting it into the information your nerves relate to your brain. It’s a separate structure from the ear canals, which are located around it. Hearing aids help the cochlea by using various methods to amplify and clarify sounds, but they don’t affect the pressure of the fluid in your ear canals, generally.
So what does affect that pressure? And why do many people who experience vertigo also report hearing issues? Well, the easiest way to explain it is by seeing the pressure as the main issue. While there are a lot of ways hearing loss can happen that don’t raise the pressure in your ear canals, infections and other issues that increase the pressure of that fluid also wind up putting pressure on the cochlea in ways that can make it hard to hear. Even when that doesn’t happen, swelling can partially or completely block the ear canal, making it harder for sound waves to penetrate far enough for your body to clearly decode the sounds.
While it can seem like the hearing loss precedes changes in fluid pressure that cause balance issues, it is usually the case that a balance disorder causes hearing loss as a side effect and not the other way around. So what does this mean for you if you start feeling vertigo with hearing aids in? It could mean a lot of things, but most of them still revolve around the fluid pressure in your ear canals. It could be a bad fit pushing on the canals in ways that distort their shape, causing changes to the pressure within that make interpreting movements difficult for your brain. It could also be unrelated, which is why vertigo issues need to be assessed carefully.
Seeking Help With Vertigo Symptoms
The most common conditions that affect both hearing and balance are Labyrinthitis and Meniere’s disease. Otherwise, most conditions with balance symptoms do not affect your hearing and vice versa. That means if you are experiencing vertigo when your hearing aids are in, a careful investigation needs to occur to see if there is an extraordinarily bad fit, which normally would be apparent very early from other forms of discomfort, a completely unrelated second condition requiring treatment, or one of these two conditions that affect both hearing and balance. Solving that riddle can be difficult, but it starts by working with the audiology team you already trust with repairs and troubleshooting for your hearing aids and other support devices.
Treating balance disorders often means seeking additional medical help to address the issues causing balance problems, but if you already work with an audiologist, starting with the people who understand your hearing and your journey so far will mean getting additional support as you investigate these new symptoms. If you’re not currently seeing an audiologist, your healthcare coverage might require you to start by getting a referral from your regular doctor. If that’s the case, you may also get a second referral to continue investigating the balance issues with the appropriate specialist at the same time. Either way, reaching out to medical professionals at the onset of vertigo symptoms is the best thing you can do as a patient.
Get Help Finding the Right Hearing Aid
While it’s rare for something like a fit issue to cause enough problems that it leads to distortions in your sense of balance, an uncomfortable hearing aid fit can cause a variety of other small problems for you throughout the day. If you need a new hearing aid and you’re looking for something comfortable you can count on for hours without having to think about, contact our team for an appointment. Getting help from professionals like our crew at the Happy Ears Hearing Center in Surprise, AZ is the easiest way to make sure you get just the right device for your needs.