Can Hearing Loss Impact Your Balance?
Celebrating 35 years of Caring for Your Hearing
|Meredy Hase tests a child, 1987||Kupperman and Hase work to license audiologists in Wisconsin, 1989|
Hearing Loss UNDER Age 65
We used to think of hearing loss as something that only happened to our grandparents' generation. But you'd be surprised at how many people your age, and even younger, have a hearing problem.
According to a study recently published by the Better Hearing Institute, two-thirds of Americans with hearing loss are under the age of 65 and still in the work force. That includes one of every six "Baby Boomers" (ages 41 to 59) and one of every 14 "Generation X'ers" (age 29-40).
According to Meredy Hase, Doctor of Audiology, "Hearing loss is by no means an 'old person's disease' any longer. Each day, we see people of all ages come into our offices concerned they may have a hearing problem.
"There's even solid evidence to support the fact that for working Americans, hearing loss impacts their ability to make a living, up to $12,000 in lost income per year." (See related article)
Dr. Hase urges anyone who thinks they, or a loved one, may have a hearing loss to contact The Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services without delay.
Auditory Deprivation refers to the fact that even though we "hear" with our ears, it's our brain that's the true organ of hearing.
When hearing loss is left untreated, the brain's ability to distinguish various sounds becomes less and less. Try to think of Auditory Deprivation as similar, in a sense, to muscles that atrophy when not used over a long period of time.
The reason Auditory Deprivation is important is that we have ample evidence proving how long people will wait before seeking help for a suspected hearing loss. Up to ten years, by some estimates.
In other words, the longer you wait to get help for your hearing loss, the less even the most advanced hearing instruments will be able to help you hear better. That's one more reason physicians recommend annual hearing checks as part of an overall health assessment.
The Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services can perform hearing screenings that take only a few minutes. Concerned individuals are urged to contact them at the first signs of hearing loss, such as an inability to understand conversations in a crowded room or having to turn up the TV volume in order to hear.
Hearing & Income Loss
After years of research, there is new evidence that links hearing loss and loss of income. A study released by the Better Hearing Institute in Alexandria, VA, proves that untreated hearing loss may impact household income by as much as $12,000 per year.
The study also shows that hearing loss, which affects more than 28 million Americans, two thirds of whom are still in the work force, results in an annual loss of more than $100 billion in wages and worker productivity. The good news is people who find help for their hearing loss can regain up to 50% of that lost income.
According to Meredy Hase, Doctor of Audiology, "One of the misconceptions about hearing loss is that it's 'an old person's ailment'. But we know that hearing loss crosses all income lines and impacts people of all ages".
The new "Open Ear" Digital hearing instruments are especially designed to help Baby Boomers feel more comfortable about wearing hearing instruments.
Anyone interested in receiving a FREE Demonstration of Open Fit hearing technology are urged to contact the Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services.
Hearing Loss & the Family
For years, both researchers and hearing healthcare professionals have known much about the causes of hearing loss and how it affects the person who suffers from it.
But not until recently has attention been paid as to the devastating effects hearing loss has on family members and friends as well. This past year alone, several organizations have weighed in with their findings on this often overlooked medical problem that by current estimates, affects the lives and families of more than 30 million Americans.
For example, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), a government agency whose task it is to research the lives of older Americans, released a study that confirms how often a person with hearing loss begins to feel isolated, eventually withdrawing from normal everyday activities and even from family and friends.
None of this is news, however, to Dr. Meredy Hase, who says, "I realized just how much hearing loss also affected family members when we''d spend so much time counseling them when we''d fit their loved one with hearing instruments".
The benefits of better hearing were the subject of an NBC report that aired on an installment of the NBC Nightly News. In that report, the testimonials of several patients and their families provided evidence of how lives can be changed for the good, once the decision has been made to seek help for a hearing problem.
Those interviewed talked about how experiences such as watching TV or enjoying conversations with loved ones - things that were not possible with hearing loss - were once again part of the everyday enjoyment of life. Social activities like dining at restaurants of going to the movies were also among the range of family life experienced through better hearing.
Thanks to recent advances in technology more help is available than ever before for those whose lives are affected by hearing loss. If left untreated, hearing loss will almost always become worse over time, another reason Dr. Hase urges people to contact the Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services if a hearing loss is thought to exist.
More Hearing Healthcare News
Hearing loss is a condition that greatly affects a person’s quality of life. It can happen suddenly, but it can also happen gradually, as the small hairs in your ear get damaged over time.
Your ears and balance
The ear is a vital organ — not only does it process sound waves, but it also serves an important purpose in the vestibular system, a combination of the visual system and the orientation of the body that helps it maintain its balance. When any part of this complex system is compromised, it can lead to balance disorders.
A structure in the inner ear, aptly named the labyrinth because it looks like an intricate maze, is largely responsible for the body’s sense of balance and orientation. The labyrinth is made up of bone and tissue and is extremely sensitive and delicate. Part of the labyrinth is the semi-circular canals and otolithic organs, which are in charge of balance, and the cochlea, which controls hearing.
This system makes your body aware of gravity and helps you to keep upright and see objects clearly (this is why your visual system also plays a role in balance).
Is your balance affected when you suffer from hearing loss?
While hearing loss in itself is not directly responsible for the loss of balance, it really depends on what part of the ear is damaged and what type of hearing loss you’re experiencing.
As soon as the inner part of your ear can no longer control your sense of balance, the rest of the system works overtime to help — this means that you rely more on information from the eyes and joints, which can now cause dizziness, headaches and body aches.
You may experience hearing loss together with balance impairment if the vestibular system is affected and there is a bigger underlying condition that might be responsible for hearing loss and a balance disorder.
So while hearing loss won’t necessarily affect your sense of balance immediately, it should be a cause of concern if you do experience hearing loss along with a loss of balance.
How are balancing disorders caused?
There are many factors that may cause impaired balance. These include:
- A head injury or any injury that causes trauma to the inner ear
- An inner ear infection which may temporarily affect the labyrinth
- An eye muscle imbalance
- Low blood pressure
Labyrinthitis — a balance-impairing condition
A specific inner ear infection causing inflammation to the labyrinth affects the balance directly and can cause hearing loss. This happens when one of the nerves responsible for sending signals to the brain to maintain balance becomes inflamed.
This condition will also cause a sudden loss of hearing in the high-frequency range in your one ear. You will experience dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and difficulty maintaining your balance.
It’s important to seek medical help to determine the cause, which could be:
- A viral infection of the inner ear
- A bacterial infection of the inner ear
- A respiratory infection such as bronchitis
When to seek help immediately
If you already suffer from hearing loss and experience balance impairment too, it’s important to visit your doctor or hearing specialist as soon as possible to determine the underlying cause, as it might not have anything to do with your inner ears. Your doctor may refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should get help, as it could signal a serious underlying condition such as a stroke:
- Slurred speech
- Blurred or double vision
Avoid ear infections that can cause balance impairment by taking proper care of hearing aids to keep them clean, keeping your immune system strong and talking to your doctor as soon as you experience any unusual symptoms.