Hearing aids may do more than just help us hear. They may also give us better balance. Imbalance is a concern of millions of people worldwide. Balance can be related to inner ear, visual, neurological and muscular disorders. While hearing aids cannot cure balance issues, it is just another clue that the parts of the ear (hearing and balance) work more closely than previously thought.
According to a recent research study from Washington University in St. Louis, ENT Dr. Timothy E. Hullar reports, “We don’t think it’s just that wearing hearing aids makes the person more alert. The participants appear to be using sound information coming through their hearing aids as auditory reference points to help maintain balance.” It is a bit like using your eyes to tell you where you are in space. This study suggests that opening your ears (to sound) also gives you information about balance.”
Patients maintained their balance over a longer period of time on balance tests using a foam pad. On the more difficult heel-to-toe test, patients remained stable nearly twice as long with hearing aids on. This study was done with a small number of patients, however results appear to be statistically significant according to Dr. Hullar. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/lary.24974/abstract)
Balance is sometimes observed in our office when patients who are used to wearing two hearing aids are suddenly in a position where they can only use one, such as if a battery dies, or if a repair is needed. Sudden sensorineural hearing losses can also contribute to balance issues, though these are often related to the vestibular—the balance—portion of the inner ear.
If you have questions about how your ears work, or if you would like your ears to work better we are “hear” for you.