The connection between balance & hearing

Hearing loss can come from loud noises like traffic, engines and more.
Hearing loss can come from loud noises like traffic, engines and more.

DECATUR, AL (WAFF) - Hearing loss can come from loud noises like traffic, engines and more. For many people problems with balance and hearing come with aging. Others don't see the connection.

We randomly talked with some people at the post office in Decatur. Doug Clemons used to work construction and said his hearing problems began long before his balance difficulties. "I worked construction all my life. I used to go up two to 300 foot and it didn't bother me. Now I can't go 20 foot and get back down... because of my balance."

Cathy Adam is a resident of China, visiting in Decatur. She said she sees a connection. "Well your sense of hearing and your sense of balance are connected by your inner ear. So I know that inner ear problems, if you have hearing problems it can lead to a loss of balance, which of course leads to more old people falling and hip injuries."

Audiologist, Dr. Randal F. Wilks, said there is a connection between the two on several levels. "...not necessarily a cause and effect type of link. But hearing and balance share a common nerve."

He said they also share a common fluid and some disorders are related to fluid pressure. Blood flow restriction can also effect both. Either can be a warning signal that some of the sensory systems are not performing as they should. "You begin to lose your sensation. Your vision begins to change."

He said inner ear problems are just one aspect of many reasons for balance dysfunction. "Arthritis, diabetic neuropathy where they lose sensation in their feet. And then there is the old spinning vertigo that gets people off balance."

Wilks adds orthostatic changes in blood pressure upon standing and medication side effects can also contribute to balance issues.

Some of these conditions may not be permanent, but doctors say it's imperative to get medical help quickly."

So what do you do? Wilks says start with your family physician. "Then if your physicians thinks from your symptoms that you need to see a specialist, he will refer you to the appropriate doctor."

Wilks said that could be a neurologist, ENT or someone else. Wilks demonstrated a small testing chamber and says there are various types of tests to determine what the problems are and how best to treat them.