Wednesday Health Watch: Hearing Loss and Balance

Photo by Huffington Post

Photo by Huffington Post

A recent study at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that people with even a mild hearing loss (< 25 dB) are 3 times more likely to have a history of falling. With every additional 10dB of hearing loss (approximately the sound of someone breathing), you increase your chance of falling by 1.4 times. A further 20dB hearing loss over the ‘mild’ classification would push up the risk by threefold again.

Balance is controlled through signals to the brain from the eyes, the inner ear, and the sensory systems of the body (skin, muscles and joints). Our balance system is also known as the vestibular system. 

A balance disorder may result in dizziness, which is a broad term that can encompass vertigo, lightheadedness and disequilibrium. If you are stationary (standing, sitting, or lying down) vertigo can make you feel as though you are moving, spinning, or floating. Lightheadedness is often associated with presyncope, or feeling as though you may pass out. With disequilibrium, you may feel as though you may tip over. Experts believe that more than 4 out of 10 Americans will experience an episode of dizziness significant enough to send them to a doctor at some point in their lives. 

Diagnosing the underlying condition causing the balance disorder can be difficult. A loss of balance could be due to many factors: low blood pressure, certain medications, a head injury, ear infection, or any other problems that affect the skeletal, visual or auditory systems. However, if you're experiencing a balance disorder AND are having trouble hearing, contact an audiologist or Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) specialist right away. 

At Hearing Health Associates, we can review your symptoms and help guide you toward an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. You can read more about balance, dizziness, and hearing loss here on our website.