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How Hearing Aids Improve Balance



Hearing and sight are two important senses when it comes to our balance. That begs the question: can hearing aids be used to improve balance for people with hearing loss?

If you’ve ever turned out a light and tried to move in the dark, you know that losing a sense can severely impact your ability to maintain balance. Without the ability to see, you’re forced to rely on your other senses to stay upright. Evidence has shown that the same concept applies to your hearing. People with burst eardrums suffer from immediate loss of balance, and those with hearing loss can experience poorer balance than those with a full range of hearing.

Nevertheless, many hard of hearing people are finding their way with hearing aids.

A Study In Balance

A study by the Washington University School of Medicine determined that our ability to hear contributes greatly to our ability to maintain our center of balance. The study included 14 participants, all elderly people with hearing loss. Tests were used to gauge whether their hearing contributed to their sense of balance, and the participants did better with hearing aids than without.

With hearing aids, they were able to balance on a foam pad for 10 seconds longer. While this seems like a small difference, it is monumental when you consider the factors of the study. Without hearing aids, many of these participants were unable to balance while standing for longer than 20 seconds. Once their hearing was improved, they were able to stay upright longer.

It is much harder to maintain balance while walking, running, and doing physical activity. If hearing aids were able to improve their sense of balance while standing still, then evidence implies it will improve their balance while moving as well. This lowers the risk of falls that could seriously injure them.

Can Hearing Aids Help?

Because hearing aids improve the quality and amount of sound reaching the eardrum, it gives the brain a better idea of one’s surroundings. People are able to identify auditory landmarks around them, which contributes to their sense of balance. While humans are visual creatures, we rely heavily on the sounds around us to give us a relative idea of our surroundings. We can only look one way, but our ears can hear in all directions.

This contributes to our sense of safety and allows us to focus our primary sense on certain tasks. When we are able to hear our surroundings, we can focus our visual senses on the task at hand. In this case, the task at hand involved staying balanced while standing on a foam mat.

In the study, the participants’ balance improved when their hearing aids were turned on. They were able to identify landmarks and were more alert. This implies that their balance while walking, moving, and sitting up was also improved with hearing aids. They were less likely to become dizzy or disoriented and were at less risk of injuring themselves.

As mentioned above, hearing aids can improve our sense of spatial awareness and safety. Those with hearing aids experience lower levels of anxiety and paranoia, and spend less time worrying about their surroundings. There have also been studies linking hearing loss and mental illnesses like dementia and depression, and hearing aids appear to help combat the onset of these conditions or alleviate the symptoms.

If you or a loved one is suffering from hearing loss, hearing aids might help restore a sense of balance and safety. While it is a personal decision, it is one that can contribute to overall health.