Your body is a unique system that is designed to work together in perfect equilibrium. And though you may use your ears every day, you may not realize how important they are to maintain balance. When the equilibrium between your ears, nervous system, and brain are off-balance, you could experience bouts of dizziness, disorientation, and imbalance. But how do you know what’s causing it? And what can you do to manage your symptoms?
The Connection Between Ears and Balance
Though it may be one of the least talked about systems in your body, the balance system helps you stand up, walk around, and move without falling over. Known as the vestibular system, your muscles, joints, eyes, and ears send signals to your brain to help maintain balance. Your inner ear, in particular, is a key to your balance system. It is made up of three main areas, called semicircular canals. Each canal has a job to keep equilibrium within your balance system. One canal works by sensing movements that are side-to-side, while the other two sense tilting movements and up-and-down movement.
Your inner ear informs your brain of the position your head is in when it’s not in motion alongside what your body is doing in that movement. The brain uses all of this information, along with your other senses, to help you keep your balance.
What Could Cause Dizziness and Imbalance?
When you move, fluid and hair cells within your ear move around and send messages to your brain through your nerves. These messages are then used by the brain to tell your body where you are within that space. But when this system is thrown out of equilibrium for any reason, regulating balance can be a problem. Balance and dizziness issues do not just happen by themselves and are most often caused by another problem. While balance issues are more commonly associated with general hearing loss, it’s important to note that the two are not always related.
Imbalance and dizziness can feel differently, depending on the cause and person. Dizziness feels like lightheadedness, unsteadiness, and faintness. Disequilibrium tends to feel more like unsteadiness and lack of balance. Vertigo, on the other hand, has a distinctive spinning feeling and the loss of perception of movement.
Simple and common problems related to the ear include swimmer’s ear, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), the build-up of ear wax, and more. But sometimes, more severe problems may be occurring within your ear, brain, and nerves. Here are just some of the other reasons why you could be feeling dizzy or off-balance:
The part of your ear that controls balance is called the labyrinth. Labyrinthitis is caused when a virus occurs with your ear’s labyrinth, which can cause nausea, dizziness, and loss of hearing.
When increased pressure of endolymph or additional potassium builds up in the inner ear where it does not belong, it can cause attacks of vertigo, tinnitus, ear fullness, and hearing loss. With Meniere’s Disease, hearing loss will develop as it worsens.
Vertigo symptoms can occur when you aren’t getting enough healthy blood supply to your ears. This is known as vascular vertigo and can be caused by things like an unhealthy lifestyle, frequent migraines, obesity, and smoking.
Similar to vascular vertigo, this condition occurs when blood flow to the ears is restricted or limited. Arteriosclerosis is often precipitated by high blood pressure, unhealthy diets, smoking, and obesity.
This type of vertigo occurs after you’ve experienced an injury or trauma to the neck or head. These injuries cause problems within the ear and create vertigo-like symptoms.
This complication of the inner ear results from an infection in or around your inner ear and nerves connecting it to the brain. With this infection, inflammation occurs and causes problems with dizziness, balance, and vertigo.
With acoustic neuroma, a non-cancerous growth appears over time in the brain. It can cause symptoms like headaches, hearing loss, difficulty swallowing, and tinnitus.
What to Do Next
The relationships between balance and hearing can have substantial effects on your medical, physical, emotional, social, and professional life. If you think you are experiencing problems with dizziness or imbalance, it is crucial to seek the advice of a medical professional at a licensed hearing center. Balance disorders can be evaluated, treated, and aided by a balance specialist. As specialists in the audiology field, we can help identify your balance issues, diagnose them, and find the proper hearing protection solution. Whether it’s hearing aids, medication, or another treatment option, we can help find the appropriate hearing protection for you.
Here at Acadian Hearing, we specialize in all things ear, hearing, and balance-related. From helping you find the root of your balance issues to helping you regain your equilibrium with a variety of solutions. We are here to assist you with specialists in the audiology field. Contact our trusted staff to see how we can help you today!
Dr. Heidi J. Sorrells obtained her doctorate degree from Salus University in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Minot State University in Minot, North Dakota. She is a certified Audiologist by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and she holds a Louisiana and a Texas Audiology License. Dr. Sorrells enjoys all aspects of working in a private practice audiology clinic but especially loves the challenges of vestibular (balance) assessment and rehabilitation.