Our sense of balance is due to interconnectedness of sight and sound. These two senses have been found to work in tandem to stabilize and maintain our balance. If you think about it, the dizziness we suffer from when we have an ear infection from the pool, or the difficulty we have when we need to walk in the dark is due to the lack of feedback the body needs from our eyes and ears to maintain stability.
One of the main symptoms of severe auditory trauma is a lack of balance. Inner ear problems and ear infections, amongst many other possible issues, have a direct and negative effect on our balance. We need to explore and be informed of the positive effects that hearing aids can provide for us.
What part does our hearing play?
Imagine you spun around with your eyes closed or to walked in to a dark theatre on a sunny afternoon. The momentary disorientation we experience is due to the complex relationship between our sensory organs of our eyes and ears. The same idea applies to our hearing ability when it is impaired. Within the inner ear there are three semicircular canals, the utricle and the saccule. They are responsible for transmitting the signals that are then sent to our brain indicating our movement and provide feedback as to our spatial orientation.
Our hearing needs to work at its full capacity so that our sight can focus on letting us know how where to move without losing our balance. Our auditory feedback also provides us with signposts so that we know how and where to move providing us with the sensory information crucial to our safety. Medical research has confirmed the connection between impaired hearing and loss of balance and can be easily illustrated by the dizziness people suffer from when having ear infections or chest infections that affect the ability to hear well.
What part can hearing aids play?
Aging, personal hearing practices and genetics play a crucial role in the decline of our hearing. Without a full range of hearing our balance tends to suffer, so it seems be the logical step to adjust our hearing ability. Hearing aids these days are increasingly sophisticated in allowing us to control the type, volume and quality of sound they transmit. By arming ourselves with hearing implements we can also better our ability to balance well.
If we take note of a study taken by the Washington State University School of Medicine, we have a basis to confirm the beneficial effects of hearing aids. In this study 14 seniors between the ages of 65 to 91 were given standard balance tests with their hearing aids on and off. The results of the study in their postural stability showed a significant increase in their stability with their hearing aids on than off! They took all the tests with their hearing aids switched on and then again with them switched off randomly.
An example of one of the balance tests taken is known as the “foam pad” test. The participants were required to simply stand on the foam pad with feet together and both eyes covered. Then they were timed as to how long they could maintain balance without the use of their hands. In the background the researchers would play white noise or a static-like sounds.
Results showed that with their hearing aids on the participants were able to maintain their balance for quite a bit longer. The average was 26 seconds with the hearing aids on and only 17 seconds with them off. Larger and more comprehensive testing is warranted but there was a lot to learn from the results of this small study. Timothy E. Hullar, author and professor of otolaryngology at the School of Medicine suggested, that based on the results, “The participants appeared to be using the sound information coming through their hearing aids as auditory reference points or landmarks to help maintain balance.”
Hearing aids are proven to help or alleviate hearing loss and according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Diseases there are “About 28.8 million U.S. adults could benefit from using hearing aids.” Loss of hearing also puts our safety in jeopardy and can leave us open to withdrawal and isolation. Early detection and early appropriate use of hearing aids are of tantamount importance.
Desert Valley Audiology
It is not an easy journey to regain your hearing health but we at Desert Valley Audiology are here to help you begin. If you or someone you are close to would benefit from taking the first step to a healthier hearing experience and attending to your overall health, give us a call and make your first appointment towards a healthier you!