Do Hearing Aids Help With Balance?
Balance is frequently associated with the inner ear, and hearing aids can help improve your balance. However, there are many conditions that affect balance but don’t affect hearing.
Your sense of balance is primarily determined by the vestibular system, which is located in the inner ear. This system consists of several canals and two organs that provide information about where your head is to the cerebellum, located at the base of the brain. The cerebellum also takes into account information coming from the eyes and muscles to coordinate the body.
Hearing Loss and Balance
One of the primary ways we move around the world is by listening to what’s going on around us. Audible clues tell us when someone or something is too close, so we can avoid it. That’s why we’re less likely to trip over a crying child than a silent cat, and it’s also why table legs and slight steps are extremely vicious to toes.
However, when you have hearing loss, you need to concentrate more on what’s going on around you, which takes up a lot more brain resources. As a result, you have fewer resources available to focus on visual clues that may inform you of issues ahead. This is why distracted driving is so dangerous — because your brain is processing what’s going on around you, you may miss the large truck that’s pulling out in front of you.
In addition, the brain needs resources for maintaining balance, such as by repositioning muscles and translating feedback from the eyes and ears. Again, if you have hearing loss, the brain has to prioritize one system or another, and this can lead to falls.
How Hearing Aids Help With Balance
When wearing hearing aids for hearing loss, you have far more audible clues about what’s going on around you, and the brain has to do less processing. This frees up resources for other essential functions, like improving your balance and coordination.
A very small study in 2015 from the Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis confirms this. When it tested patients with hearing aids in both ears, they had better balance than when they had their hearing aids in their ears but switched off. While this only involved 14 people, it demonstrates how hearing aids can affect balance.
If you have issues with balance and your hearing, talk to your audiologist to discover the best hearing aids for your needs. They can significantly improve your quality of life, and they can reduce the risk of falls substantially.