Why Does Your Hearing Affect Your Balance?

walking balance - hearing tests

Typically, audiology tests are undertaken for people who are worried about their hearing, as well as whether this hearing loss is caused by a condition that can be cured or rectified, but there are also people who have tests that have no problems hearing but struggle to maintain their balance.

The connection between hearing and balance is one that has been studied for an exceptionally long time, although the results of these studies have often been mixed and inconclusive. Not all people with hearing loss suffer with their balance, and vice versa.

However, these studies only highlight the complex relationship between hearing and balance, and why hearing issues and inner ear disorders can affect our sense of balance as much as it does.

The main structure in charge of maintaining our sense of balance is the two parts of the labyrinth in the inner ear.

There is the bony labyrinth, which includes the cochlea, vestibule and another series of semi-circular bony cavities, and the membranous labyrinth that lies within, which contains a continuous series of ducts including the cochlear duct, which is the origin of how we hear.

However, the nerve pathway that connects our hearing system to the brain also connects our balance systems, and several of the smaller parts of the inner ear also affect our balance.

The semicircular canals, for example, help to determine and process head movements such as tilting our had, whilst the utricle and saccule work as a spirit level to detect how our body is oriented in relation to the ground, which is how we can tell if we are sitting, leaning or lying down.

These small parts of the ear work with our eyes and the feeling in our feet and our legs to ensure we retain our balance, and losing one of these fundamental systems can cause major effects to how we stay upright.