Often taken for granted, good balance is necessary to perform daily activities. But our balance system is complex and delicate, and many things can contribute to loss of equilibrium or dizziness — including problems in the inner ear. Let me explain.
Vestibular organs—the paired set of tiny sensory organs tucked right near the cochlea of the inner ear—are key to maintaining balance. They are filled with fluid (called endolymph) that moves when your head moves, which places pressure against hairs in the ears.
Combined with information from the eyes, nerves and muscles, these hairs send signals to the brain when the body’s position is changing. The brain takes in all this information and coordinates the body to respond so a fall does not occur.
Why your balance might be off
Balance issues arise when something interrupts this coordinated process — and it’s not uncommon for vestibular organs to be the culprit. Aging alone results in natural endolymph fluid loss as well as the sensitivity loss in your inner ear hairs. But illness, infections and head trauma can also cause equilibrium disorders and dizziness, including these two common ones:
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
The most common disorder of the inner ear’s vestibular system, BPPV causes brief but intense episodes of vertigo as a result of changing position of your head (such as sitting up in bed). Causes of BPPV vary, from migraines and viruses to reactions to drugs (ototoxicity), but treatment is available.
A chronic, incurable vestibular disorder caused by abnormally large amounts of endolymph fluid collecting in the ear. Typically occurs in adults between 40 and 60 years of age and eventually leads to hearing loss.
Take balance issues seriously
While balance problems can occur at any age, balance-related falls account for more than half of accidental deaths for people 65 and older, and over 300,000 hip fractures a year.
That’s why we recommend taking your hearing health seriously — because, with proper diagnosis and therapeutic exercises, most balance issues can be managed.
Start by coming in for a free hearing examination. To set-up your free appointment, simply visit our Contact Us page.