Hearing aids are commonly thought of as helping with hearing loss or some symptoms of tinnitus. But could they also help with balance issues or vertigo?
Vertigo is common in older age, but it is estimated that 2% of the general population suffer from it. Of those, 75% also suffer from hearing problems. According to the NIDCD, in 2008 roughly 33 million American adults, or 15% of the population, had a balance or dizziness problem. While balance can be impacting by certain health conditions or medications, problems within the inner ear can also play a role.
Common inner ear conditions that can result in balance issues, vertigo or dizziness include Meniere’s Disease, or Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Others can include otosclerosis of the middle ear, or ear infections such as labyrinthitis. These cases may be also be accompanied by a hearing loss.
The Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis conducted a study, which found that older people who use hearing aids do seem to benefit from improvements in balance, which in turn reduces their risk of falls.
This study seems to show that it’s the sound itself, and not just the balance system of the inner ear, that helps with postural balance (and by default dizziness too).
In the study, standard balance tests were used to measure balance in participants with their hearing aids on and off. After the study, Timothy E. Hullar, lead author and professor of otolaryngology concluded that, “The participants appeared to be using the sound information coming through their hearing aids as auditory reference points or landmarks to help maintain balance.”
He compared it to when we use our eyes to tell us where we are. For example, when we turn the lights off, we tend to sway a bit more than when the lights are on.
Interestingly, the greatest improvements were in those participants with the poorest balance to begin with.
Meniere’s Disease is a disorder of the inner ear. It causes sufferers to feel bouts of vertigo, and often includes fluctuations of hearing loss. Hearing loss can be progressive, and often result in permanent loss of hearing, ringing in the ear, or uneven feelings of pressure in one ear.
Sufferers who use hearing aids often find that by equalizing hearing in both ears, symptoms of vertigo can be lessened. In addition, hearing aids can help mitigate the impact of the hearing loss associated with the disease.
Although further studies are required to identify the benefits of hearing aids in helping to alleviate balance issues or vertigo, initial results are promising. If you’ve experienced any symptoms of vertigo or balance disorders, get in touch with us today. Estimates show that 3 out of 4 cases of vertigo relate to a form of hearing loss. Call our hearing care experts on (970) 352-2881 to discuss how a hearing aid may benefit you. Alternatively, click here to request an appointment online.