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The Inner Ear and Your Sense of Balance

Jul 28, 2022 The Inner Ear and Your Sense of Balance

Audiologists are most commonly known for performing hearing tests and fitting hearing aids. But did you know many hearing health professionals also assess and treat balance disorders? We at Hearing Doctors evaluate your entire ear and offer treatment solutions to keep you hearing and feeling your best. Here is some information that will help you understand how the inner ear works to keep you balanced.

As your Doctor of Audiology will confirm, the inner ear has a lot to do with your balance. Let’s look at how it works:


The inner ear has three tiny canals that contain fluid and hair cells. When you move, the specialized hair cells in these canals are stimulated and messages are sent to your brain via the vestibulocochlear nerve. One canal senses up-and-down movement, the second left-to-right movement, and the third notes tilting movements.


We rely on these signals to interpret what is happening in the moment. Your brain is able to recognize if you are walking in a straight line, if the terrain is uneven, or if you are just sitting still. The brain relies on this information along with that from your eyes and muscles and uses it to keep you ‘on your feet’.


Common Causes of Dizziness 



Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo or BPPV. One of the most common causes of vertigo. This develops when deposits of calcium carbonate migrate into one or more of the three fluid-filled semicircular canals. The presence of the calcium carbonate interferes with the flow of the fluid, creating an imbalance. Any movement on your part may bring on this form of vertigo. Fortunately for most, it is short lived and can be treated.


Meniere’s Disease. A disorder of the inner ear that causes severe dizziness (vertigo), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), hearing loss, and a feeling of fullness or congestion in the ear. Meniere’s disease usually affects only one ear.


Infection. Specifically vestibular neuronitis, may also impact your balance. Even as it affects your hearing, the infection also interferes with the transfer of information between the inner ear and the brain. The disruption can also lead to a change in your balance. 

How Your Balance Issue May Manifest


The imbalance may not affect you in all positions. You may be fine while in bed or sitting and then a problem arises when you attempt to stand. For others, moving the head in a certain direction or movements that are fast may bring on the sense of vertigo. And yet some find that they can stand and walk without much issue, unless they begin to move a little faster. 


As with the hearing loss, you may have a permanent health issue, or it may be something that can be treated. There’s no way to be sure until you receive a proper vestibular evaluation. 


(Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/trees-path-nature-whirl-rotate-358418/)

Seeking to Prevent Further Deterioration


There are approaches that can help slow the deterioration of any permanent loss of balance. It may not be possible to reverse the issues, but slowing the progression will allow you to enjoy a better quality of life. 


Vestibular rehabilitation may be a viable solution. Also known as balance retraining, this helps you to develop skills that make it possible to function in spite of the loss. You may also find that the use of walking aids, like canes or walkers, may help in your situation. 


Keep in mind that you should never try to self-diagnose what seems to be a loss in hearing acuity or a change in your balance. When you notice any type of issue, the most practical solution is to seek medical help. 


An audiologist that specializes in balance assessments can perform a neurodiagnostic evaluation to determine if your change in balance is due to an issue with the ears, or if there is a developing medical issue that is causing the problem. Once you know why you’re experiencing these issues, it will be easier to seek treatments that help compensate for or at least help to keep the problems at bay. 


To schedule an appointment to have your hearing or balance checked, contact one of our offices

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