Did you know that spatial awareness has a lot to do with our ears? A study conducted by John Hopkins University revealed a link between hearing loss and balance. Those with hearing loss were more likely to suffer a fall. The reason for this is that the brain uses our eyes and ears together to understand the physical environment around us. When there is a disruption to this visual and/or auditory information, our spatial awareness is also disrupted.
The vestibular system detects both circular motion and movement in a straight line. This includes everyday actions such as stopping, starting or turning. The sensory system keeps track of the movement and tension of our muscles and joints. It also monitors the position of our body with respect to the ground. The brain receives signals from all these systems and processes the information gathered to produce a sensation of stability. If the signals sent to the brain by the vestibular system do not match the signals sent from the eyes and sensory system, then dizziness and motion sickness can occur.
But does this mean that hearing aids can improve balance? We know that hearing loss negatively impacts balance, but does improving a person’s hearing also improve their balance?
The Washington University School of Medicine conducted a small study of people aged 65 – 91 to determine whether the use of hearing aids would improve their overall balance. The study found that balance did improve considerably and that participants appeared to be using the sound information coming through their hearing aids as auditory reference points to help maintain balance.