Dizziness

Dizziness

Dizziness is a term people use to describe a variety of sensations. Symptoms such as vertigo, disequilibrium, lightheadedness, and spatial disorientation can all be described as dizziness. However, each symptom and their description offer unique insight into the problem as well as the possible cause. 


What Causes Hearing Loss and Balance Problems?  

Before treating your dizziness, it is important to determine the cause of your dizziness. It is often best to contact your family physician and describe your symptoms to him or her. Your description may include how long the symptoms last, as well as movements, positions, situations, or times that seem to cause the symptoms to start, or to make them worse. Pay attention to new or associated symptoms that occur around the same time as the dizziness such as headache, ringing in the ear(s), changes in hearing, pressure in the ears, or increased sensitivity to light or sound. 
 
Dizziness can be caused by a variety of issues.  

  • Inner ear infections 
  • Meniere’s Disease 
  • Head injury 
  • Medications toxic to the ear 
  • Tumors  
  • Genetics 
  • Blood circulation  

Rarely, dizziness is a medical emergency. If you experience slurred speech, confusion, difficulty swallowing, or the inability to walk, dial 911 or see a physician immediately. 


Does Hearing Loss Affect Balance?  

The inner ear is responsible for both hearing and balance function. Hearing loss indicates that there is a problem with the hearing organ (cochlea) in the inner ear. Problems with the inner ear may also include the balance organs due to an underlying condition that impacts the inner ear as a whole. 

Change in Hearing and Balance Often Happen as We Age  

Individuals with untreated hearing loss are more likely to have a history of falling.1, 2  

  • Reduced vestibular and balance system function 
  • Reduced awareness of the surroundings 
  • Reduced cognitive resources available for balance due to hearing loss 

Improve Your Balance4 

  • Consider conditions such as vision changes and reduced sensitivity in your feet. 
  • Ask your health-care provider about the impact of your medications on dizziness and balance concerns. 
  • Have your hearing tested annually.3 If you have concerns about your balance or hearing, evaluation by an audiologist can help identify the cause. 
  • Ask your health-care team about balance therapy options that can improve your balance. 
  • Evaluate your home for risks. 
    • Remove tripping hazards such as rugs. 
    • Use non-slip mats in the shower or bath. 
    • Add hand rails in the bathtub and next to the toilet. 

References

1 Lin FR, Ferrucci L. (2012) Hearing loss and falls among older adults in the United States. Arch Intern Med 172(4):369–371. 

2 Vilkanen A, Kaprio J, Pyykkö I, et al. (2009) Hearing as a predictor of falls and postural balance in older female twins. J Gerontol Biol Sci Med Sci 64(2): 312–317. 

3 National Institute on Aging. Prevent Falls and Fractures [online]. www.nia.nih.gov/health/prevent-falls-and-fractures. Accessed July 3, 2019. 

4 Rummalla K, Karin AM, Hullar TE. (2014) The effect of hearing aids on postural stability. Laryngoscope 125(3): 720–723.