The role of ears in the balance system

Are you living with hearing loss?

Do you find yourself straining to hear, or struggle to follow conversations?

Perhaps you’ve recently noticed problems with your balance that have you concerned for your overall health and well being. Not only do your ears help you hear, they’re also responsible for your balance, and if you have hearing loss, you might discover that you’re not very stable on your feet and more likely to experience trips, slips, and falls.

The science behind balancing

Most people never think about balance. We walk, run, drive, play sports, and dance without ever thinking about it. It’s only when you start to feel unsteady on your feet that you begin to consider your balance. How does the balance system work? The body is always sensing its position, and the relative distance to the ground and other objects, and the brain takes this information to adjust muscles and joints, and keep you stable on your feet. The body senses all of this through your inner ears, your eyes, and your joints and muscles, which all send information about balance to your brain.

Vestibular System

In the inner ear is the vestibular system. This area collects information about the position of the head. The vestibular system is composed of three canals and two pockets that are filled with fluid and work together to provide information about balance. As the head moves and tilts, the fluid in the canals move, allowing your brain to detect spatial orientation, and stay balanced. The two pockets, called otolith organs, detect movement straight up and down, as well as backwards and forwards, so your brain will have all the information it needs to stay balanced and coordinate movement.

The Cerebellum

The information from the inner ear is sent to the brain’s movement control centre, or cerebellum – the part of the brain at the back of the head where the brain and spine meet. Along with the signals from the vestibular system, the cerebellum gets information from the eyes and muscles, so your cerebellum has information about how your body is positioned, as well as the position of your body in relation to the environment around you. Your cerebellum uses all this information to keep you upright and balanced, and sends signals to the body, making conscious and unconscious adjustments to your posture as you go about your day.

Hearing Loss and Balance

Since the ear plays a major role in balance, hearing loss can affect balance, and those with hearing loss are often less steady on their feet. The ear is a complex organ, and when you experience damage that causes hearing loss, the vestibular system could also be damaged, affecting your balance and coordination. Not only that, but hearing also plays a role in spatial awareness, so when you can’t hear so well, you’re not receiving as much information about the environment around you. Living with untreated hearing loss can make you less mobile, and those with hearing loss often stay home, and don’t leave the house or the neighbourhood very much. This further reduces mobility, and can lead to social isolation, stress, and even depression.

Treating Hearing Loss

If you have noticed problems in your balance or suffer from vertigo or dizziness, you may benefit from a hearing assessment. Find out how treating your hearing loss could help you be more active and feel more stable on your feet as well as allowing you to enjoy conversations in loud, crowded places.

FREE hearing assessment

At Imperial Hearing, it’s our mission to ensure that every patient enjoys the very best sound possible, combined with an independent experience that is second to none. Whether you need a hearing aid or not we offer FREE, no-obligation consultations to put your mind at ease and start your journey to hearing in full again. You can book an appointment at any of our clinics across the country via the website, email, phone, or just popping in.

Contact us

Contact us today on 08000 199575 Email Find your nearest centre.