5 Min

The Connection Between Hearing Loss And Balance

Learn everything you need to know about the connection between hearing loss and balance issues. Click here to read all about it!

Nicole Brener
Nicole Brener
The Connection Between Hearing Loss And Balance

Imagine standing still yet feeling like the world around you is spinning or tilting uncontrollably. This sensation can cause you to feel unsteady on your feet or as if you're about to lose your balance. 

Some may describe it as feeling lightheaded, accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, sweating, or a sensation of floating. 

These could be signs of balance disorders, also called vestibular disorders, affecting around 35% of adults aged 40 and older in the US. 

Several factors, including hearing loss, influence the vestibular system and may contribute to dizziness or imbalance. 

Let's explore the connection between hearing loss and balance and uncover coping strategies to mitigate uncomfortable feelings of dizziness and vertigo. 

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How Do We Balance Our Bodies?

Our ability to balance happens at the brain level. It involves a complex process that connects various bodily systems, including the vestibular, visual (inner ear), and proprioceptive systems. Any disruption to this connection or issues within these bodily components can result in vertigo, dizziness, or imbalance. 

In addition, some medications can contribute to these symptoms, so it is important to discuss them with your primary care doctor. 

How Does Hearing Loss Lead to Balance Disorders?

Image of Inner Ear Anatomy. Source: LEONELLO CALVETTI / Getty Images
Image of Inner Ear Anatomy. Source: LEONELLO CALVETTI / Getty Images

Hearing loss is closely connected to our ability to balance because hearing is one of the senses that helps us send signals to our brain to balance our body. Specifically, the inner ear, the innermost part of the ear, comprises a network of looped tubes and plays an important role in hearing and balance. 

When we move or tilt our heads, the sensory cells within these canals spring into action, detecting even the slightest shifts in movement. However, if we spin around fast, it can take our vestibular system some time to recalibrate, which is why you experience a spinning sensation, a feeling kids enjoy experimenting with. 

Does this mean that everyone with hearing loss experiences balance disorders?

While hearing loss is closely connected to our ability to balance, not everyone with hearing loss will necessarily experience balance disorders. 

Although hearing loss can contribute to balance issues in some cases, it is not the sole determining factor. Other factors, such as age-related changes in the vestibular system, inner ear infections, head trauma, neurological conditions, and medications, can also play a role in the development of balance disorders.

Hearing Loss and Its Impact on Balance

Hearing loss, whether partial or complete, can stem from various factors such as aging, exposure to loud noise, genetics, or medical conditions. Regardless of its origin, hearing loss can impact balance and spatial orientation, leading to an increased risk of imbalance and falls, as well as vertigo, tinnitus, dizziness, and fatigue. 

Living with these symptoms is not only physically uncomfortable, but it can also take an emotional toll on people. Simple tasks like crossing the street or maneuvering through crowded spaces can become daunting challenges, leading to social isolation and depression.

The good news is that taking proactive steps to manage hearing loss and balance challenges is possible. Keep reading to learn about effective strategies that can help address these issues head-on.

Diagnosing Balance Disorders

Diagnosing balance disorders involves evaluating medical history, undergoing a physical examination to assess balance, reflexes, coordination, hearing, and sensory function, and a vestibular function test.

How Does a Vestibular Test Work?

To feel balanced, your brain requires input from vision, touch, and hearing (inner ear). One of the main things an audiologist measures during a vestibular test is how your body’s sensory systems are working together to control balance using a series of specialized tests, including:

  • Videonystagmography (VNG): This test measures eye movements in response to various stimuli, such as changes in head position or visual input, to evaluate vestibular function.
  • Electronystagmography (ENG): Assesses eye movements by placing electrodes around the eyes to detect involuntary eye movements in response to vestibular stimuli.
  • Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potentials (VEMP): Evaluate the function of specific muscles in response to sound or other stimuli, providing information about the integrity of the vestibular system.
  • Rotary Chair Test: This test involves sitting in a rotating chair while eye movements are monitored to assess how well the vestibular system responds to rotational stimuli.
Female patient visiting an audiologist
Female patient visiting an audiologist

How to Prepare for a Vestibular Test

Follow your audiologist's instructions on how to prepare. 

Arrange transportation: You may feel dizzy after testing, so it's a good idea to have someone drive you home to be safe.

Follow your audiologist's instructions: Certain medications may interfere with test results, so it's essential to follow instructions on which medications to take and which ones to avoid.

Dietary Restrictions: Your doctor may recommend eating only a small meal or avoiding eating or drinking alcohol before the test.

Avoid eye makeup: To facilitate accurate evaluation of eye movements, refrain from wearing eye makeup such as eyeliner, mascara, or dark eye shadow. Clear visibility of eye movements is crucial for evaluating the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) during testing.

Coping Strategies for Balance Challenges Associated with Hearing Loss

If you’re experiencing hearing loss accompanied by balance challenges and symptoms, seek medical advice from your primary care doctor or audiologist. They can assess your situation and recommend appropriate interventions, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, or vestibular rehabilitation therapy.  

Here are some strategies to consider:

Hearing Aids: Assistive listening devices are easily accessible devices that can improve your hearing and indirectly support your balance by enhancing spatial awareness.

Balance Exercises: Balance exercises such as pilates or specific routines designed by physical therapists or rehabilitation specialists can strengthen muscles, improve coordination, and enhance proprioception, reducing the risk of falls and injury.

Stay Active: Movement and physical activity that promotes strength, flexibility, and balance, such as yoga, barre, tai chi, or low-impact aerobics, help maintain muscle tone and joint mobility, which are essential for stability and mobility.

Optimize Your Environment: Organize your surroundings at home to minimize fall hazards, like removing clutter, installing grab bars in bathrooms, using non-slip mats, and installing adequate lighting. 

Lastly, seeking emotional support from family, friends, communities, or professional counselors can be beneficial for addressing feelings of frustration, anxiety, or depression. 

Innovations in Hearing Loss and Balance Management 

There’s much to look forward to regarding balance management tools and resources. Recent developments and technological advancements have provided solutions for individuals seeking effective treatment for hearing loss and balance challenges. Let’s take a look at what’s new:

Vestibular Implants

Vestibular implants stimulate the vestibular nerve, restoring balance function in individuals with severe vestibular deficits, such as those caused by bilateral vestibular hypofunction or Meniere's disease. 

While still in the early stages of research and development, vestibular implants hold significant potential for improving balance and reducing symptoms in select patient populations.

Smartphone Apps for Balance Training

Smartphone apps like MindMotion GO facilitate balance training through personalized interactive exercises and performance tracking. By incorporating gamification and real-time feedback, these apps make balance training engaging, accessible, and convenient for individuals of all ages and abilities. 

Wearable Devices

Smartwatches and fitness trackers can track movement patterns, detect changes in gait and posture, and provide real-time feedback to users about their balance and mobility. By promoting awareness and encouraging regular physical activity, wearable devices can improve balance, reduce fall risk, and enhance overall well-being in individuals with balance disorders.

Virtual Reality (VR) Therapy

VR-based therapy programs immerse users in simulated environments to practice balance exercises and tasks in a safe and controlled setting. These immersive experiences challenge users to engage in dynamic balance activities, such as navigating virtual obstacle courses or performing yoga poses, while receiving real-time feedback and guidance from virtual coaches or therapists. 


If you’re experiencing symptoms of balance disorders accompanied by hearing loss or not, consult your health care provider.

Looking ahead, there are promising opportunities for the management and treatment of hearing loss and balance disorders, holding the potential to transform and improve the lives of individuals affected by balance disorders. As research and development in this field progress, we can look forward to further innovations that expand treatment options, enhance outcomes, and empower individuals to regain control of their balance and mobility.

Nicole Brener
Nicole Brener

Copywriter based in Miami, FL. Leads copywriting workshops and mentors women entrepreneurs at the Idea Center of Miami Dade College.

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