Do you have hearing loss and also experience balance problems when hiking in Kennedy Forest? If so, you’re not alone. It’s common for people with hearing loss to also experience balance problems due to the fact that the auditory and vestibular systems are both housed in the inner ear; if one system is damaged, it’s often the case the other system is too. Fortunately, hearing aids have been shown to improve both hearing and balance.
The Auditory & Vestibular Systems
The inner ear contains both the cochlea, which helps you hear, and the semicircular canals, which help you balance.
The cochlea is filled with fluid and lined with tiny hair cells called stereocilia. Soundwaves activate the stereocilia, which convert the impulses into electrical energy. This energy travels to the brain via the auditory nerve to be interpreted as sound.
The semicircular canals are also fluid-filled and contain hair cells. Each set of semicircular canals detects a different type of movement as the fluid sloshes around: one detects up/down movement; one detects side-to-side movement; and one senses tilting movement.
What the Studies Show
A study was conducted by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine and published in the journal The Laryngoscope in 2014. The purpose of the study was to examine the effect of hearing aids on postural stability.
The study participants included a total of 14 older adults between the ages of 65 and 91.
Researchers evaluated the participants’ balance using two standard balance tests. One test entailed standing feet-together on a thick foam pad, and the other involved standing on the floor in a heel-to-toe formation. For both tests, the participants’ eyes were covered. Each test was repeated twice, once with hearing aids off and once with them on.
For the foam pad test, average duration of stability was:
- 17 seconds with devices off.
- 26 seconds with devices on.
For the heel-to-toe test, average duration of stability was:
- 5 seconds with devices off.
- 10 seconds with devices on.
While the study was small, the results are statistically significant and show that hearing aids can, in fact, improve balance.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Center for Hearing & Speech today.