Your ears do more than help you to hear. Working together with other systems within your body, they also help to align your body in space, which includes staying upright and balanced.

Most people who are unsteady on their feet also experience problems within their ears, causing sensations like vertigo and difficulties while walking, standing, or sitting up.

To keep Los Angeles residents better informed, let’s examine how your ears help you to maintain your balance as well as treatments for balance-related issues. 

How Your Ears Help with Balance

Within the inner ear is a labyrinth, a maze of bone and tissue used to help transfer sound signals to the brain for processing. This labyrinth includes the semicircular canals, the otolithic organs, and the cochlea.

The semicircular canals work similarly to the bubble in a carpenter’s level. As inner ear fluid moves, small hair cells within each of these loops senses up/down, side-to-side, tilt and then send signals to your brain.

Your brain recognizes the problem and directs other parts of your body to make adjustments to maintain balance.

Feelings that you are tipping over, spinning, or floating while standing still and stumbling and holding on to walls or furniture to steady yourself are other indicators that things are out of balance.

Even if the sensations pass, frequent balance issues could be the warning signs of additional health problems.

Inner Ear Issues Can Lead to Balance Problems

Because of their crucial role in maintaining balance, inner ear issues can lead to balance disorders. Acute disorders usually stem from an ear infection or low blood pressure, but they can also be caused by tumors or poor circulation.

No matter what causes a balance disorder, it can result from a serious health condition and lead to more serious health problems. Balance disorder severity varies from one person to the next, and its cause typically determines how serious it is. The most common balance disorders include:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) or positional vertigo. Usually, the result of aging or a head injury.
  • Labyrinthitis is an inner ear infection that leads to hearing loss, tinnitus, feelings of vertigo, and nausea.
  • Vestibular neuronitis is essentially labyrinthitis without hearing loss.
  • Mal de Debarquement syndrome (MdDS) is the feeling that you are still moving even after you’ve left a vehicle, boat, or plane.
  • Meniere’s disease results from a buildup of pressure within the inner ear labyrinth, leading to hearing loss, vertigo, and tinnitus.
  • Perilymph fistula results from inner ear fluid leaking into the middle ear. After head injuries or surgery, this condition occurs at birth, during infections, or after scuba diving.

Both labyrinthitis and Meniere’s disease can lead to permanent hearing loss if left untreated, which means that individuals experiencing balance issues should seek professional help from a doctor of audiology or an ENT specialist.

Balance Disorder Treatment

Balance disorder treatments vary according to your condition. Antibiotics are a common treatment for infections.

Other medications are applied to managing the pressure of Meniere’s disease. One of the most common treatments for permanent balance disorders is Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT).

VRT includes exercises designed to help desensitize a person’s balance system when engaged in certain movements, helping them recognize situations and movements apt to trigger their vertigo and adjust how they move to prevent it or limit its effect.

VRT helps prevent falls and decrease vertigo when bending over, turning the head, or walking over patterned floors.

West Coast Hearing and Balance Centers Treat Balance Disorders

Because your ears play a crucial role in helping you to maintain your balance, it makes sense to consult with an ear expert to find the solution to balance disorders.

The team at West Coast Hearing and Balance Centers understand all of the health issues related to ears, including balance disorders. We have a variety of treatment options available to help you feel steady on your feet.

Contact us to schedule an appointment, or call the location nearest you.

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Nicole Schmidt, AuD

Dr. Nicole Schmidt graduated suma cum laude with a degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology from the University of Akron in 2015. She earned her Doctorate of Audiology (AuD) from Central Michigan University in 2019. She completed her audiology internship year at Arizona Balance and Hearing Associates, where she worked primarily evaluating patients with dizziness and balance problems and those suffering from tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Dr. Schmidt completed her doctoral research on tinnitus and the different therapy options available. Dr. Schmidt was a practicing audiologist in Santa Barbara before joining the team at WCHB. She holds her license in Audiology from the state of California. She enjoys cooking, hiking, playing kickball, golfing, and staying active with her two dogs in her spare time.