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Hearing aids don’t cause vertigo, although vertigo often presents with hearing loss. The two are linked for various reasons, and those who have hearing loss frequently have other issues, such as vertigo or tinnitus, as well. Around one in three seniors aged 65 through 74 have difficulty hearing, and almost half of those over the age of 75 have hearing loss.

Why Hearing Aids and Vertigo Are Linked

The two are linked because damage to the hearing system can throw off the body’s sense of balance, which relies on the eyes, ears, muscles and joints all providing information to the cerebellum in the brain. The cerebellum coordinates all that data and tells the body how to move to ensure optimal balance.

The inner ear balance mechanism, called the vestibular system, involves moving fluid with crystals in it that triggers various tiny hairs within the inner ear. When these hairs get damaged or are interfered with — whether through age, physical damage, infection or genetic issues — they can send contradictory signals to the brain, causing confusion, which manifests as vertigo.

The cochlear, a part of the hearing system and is directly linked to the vestibular system. The cochlear has thousands of tiny hairs that are triggered by sound that’s been passed over the eardrum and transferred to the three tiny bones of the middle ear. Issues with the vestibular system often affect the cochlear as well.

Conditions Causing Hearing Loss and Vertigo

Numerous conditions can cause hearing loss and vertigo, and an audiologist may recommend using hearing aids in many cases involving hearing loss and tinnitus. They are not typically recommended as a solution for vertigo, however. 

Physical damage

Physical damage is a major culprit for both hearing loss and vertigo. The World Health Organization recommends aiming for safe listening levels of no more than 75 dB whenever possible. With levels above that, the WHO recommends keeping to these times limits:

  • 90 dB: 150 minutes
  • 100 dB: 15 minutes
  • 110 dB: 30 seconds
  • 120 dB: 9 seconds
  • 130 dB: <1 second

Ultimately, physical damage to the delicate hairs of the cochlear can build up, and there’s no cure. This is the same whether it’s due to unsafe listening levels or age.

Meniere’s disease

This condition occurs when fluid builds up inside the inner ear, interfering with both hearing and balance signals. Those with Meniere’s disease may feel as though their ear is full and have multiple episodes of vertigo lasting at least 20 minutes each. It also often presents with tinnitus. The effects are usually temporary, but they can be distressing.

Labyrinthitis

Also known as vestibular neuritis, labyrinthitis has similar symptoms to Meniere’s disease. In addition, it’s usually accompanied by a feeling of sickness, but it often goes away on its own within 2 to 6 weeks. Like other diseases ending in “itis,” it’s the result of inflammation and often caused by an infection, in this case in one of the vestibular nerves.

Cancer

Ear cancers are extremely rare, with only around 300 people diagnosed in the United States each year. As they grow, cancers can cause a whole host of changes within the ear, potentially resulting in pain, bleeding, fluid discharge, vertigo and hearing loss. The main treatment is surgery, involving removal of the affected areas and some of the surrounding tissue.