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Does Hearing Loss Affect Balance?

Saturday, May 11, 2019 12:36:40 PM Asia/Calcutta

Hearing loss is a serious problem that affects a person not only at the physiological level but at the psychological level as well. Do you know that your hearing loss can cause balance problems? Yes, you heard it right! The ear is a very complex organ. We know that the human ear is responsible for processing the sound signals and sending them to the brain, thus enabling us to ‘hear’, but the less known fact is that it is also responsible for maintaining the balance of the human body.

Hearing loss is often linked to balance disorders. Studies show that treating hearing problems - either with the help of hearing aids or other devices or medications - can reduce the risks of falling to a great extent, especially in older people.


The Balance Mechanism of the Human Body

Before discussing how the ears are responsible for maintaining the body balance, let us see how the whole balance mechanism works.

The sense of balance, technically known as equilibrioception, is one of the physiological senses related to balance. In short, it is a mechanism which prevents human beings and animals from falling while standing or moving. But behind this apparently-simple phenomenon, there is a complex process of several systems working together.

The balance mechanism of the human body works in strong coordination of several organs and systems. It works in a constant process of position detection, feedback and adjustment, with the use of communication and coordination between the inner ear, eyes, muscles, joints and the brain.

First and foremost, let us discuss the mechanism of the human ear. The ear comprises three main parts -

  • The outer ear

  • The middle ear

  • The inner ear

The inner ear serves two main functions - a) one part of it enables us to hear, and b) the second part, known as the vestibular system, is responsible for maintaining the body balance. The latter part, about which we are concerned right now, is designed to send information about the position of the head in a given point of time, to the centre of the brain which controls movement - that is the cerebellum.


What is the Function of the Cerebellum?

The cerebellum is a small part of the brain situated at the back of the head, where it meets the spine. The cerebellum is primarily responsible for coordinating voluntary movements such as body posture, balance, body coordination and speech, thus maintaining in a smooth and balanced muscular activity.

The cerebellum receives information in the form of signals about the body’s position from the inner ear, the eyes, muscles and joints. The cerebellum after understanding the meanings of these signals further sends messages to the muscles to make any positional adjustments necessary to maintain the body balance, thus ensuring that the individual does not fall while making any movements. The cerebellum is also responsible for coordinating the timing as well as the force of the muscle and joint movements which are initiated by other parts of the brain.


What is the Significance of the Vestibular System?

The vestibular system, seen in most of the mammals, is a sensory system, is responsible for maintaining the body’s balance, movement and equilibrium. It contributes to the sense of balance and spatial orientation, thus enabling smooth coordination of movement with balance.

A vestibule, which is oval-shaped, is referred to the central part of the bony counterpart in the inner ear. It is situated medial to the eardrum or the tympanic membrane, behind the cochlea and in front of the three semicircular canals (the horizontal, the superior and the posterior).

There is a structure in the inner ear, called the labyrinth, which is responsible for the body’s sense of balance. As the name suggests, it is a maze-like complex structure which is a combination of tissues and bones and is very delicate. The labyrinth comprises the semicircular canals and the otolithic organs.

Any movement is composed of two phases - rotations and translations. The vestibular system is therefore designed to control these two aspects, and thus comprises two components - the semicircular canals, which indicate the rotational movements, and the otoliths, which indicate the linear accelerations. The vestibular system after receiving these signals about the type of movement made by an individual, transfers them to the neural structures which control the eye movements, as well as to the muscles which control the individual’s posture, thus helping him/her to stay upright.

The brain then receives these useful information about the person's position and movements from the vestibular system, and enables an individual to understand his/her position and acceleration (that is the dynamics and the kinematics of his or her body) each and every moment, especially when there is a change in the body position and movement.


Semicircular Canals

The semicircular canals are the main tools which detect the rotational movements. Since the world is three-dimensional, the vestibular system contains three semicircular canals in each of the labyrinth, placed at right angles to each other. The bony labyrinth, which is located in the temporal bone (that which is situated at the sides and the base of the skull), is referred to the rigid and bony outer wall of the inner ear, which consists of three parts - the vestibule, the semicircular canals and the cochlea.

The three sections of the semicircular canals are known as the lateral, the anterior or the superior and the posterior or the inferior semicircular canal. The lateral is considered the horizontal semicircular canal, and the anterior and the posterior are collectively known as the vertical semicircular canals.

Each of the semicircular canals consists of a fluid called perilymph. While the movement of the fluid present inside the horizontal semicircular canal corresponds to that of the rotation of the head around the neck - which acts as a vertical axis, the movement of the fluid inside the vertical semicircular canals corresponds to the movement of the head along the sagittal plane, which is felt during nodding, and in the frontal plane, which occurs during cartwheeling.


Otolithic Organs

The second part of the vestibular system, that is the otolithic organs are responsible for sensing the linear accelerations. The otoliths enhance the sense of gravity and motion in an individual, by adding to the weight and inertia of the otolithic membrane.


All of these mechanisms contribute to the experience of equilibrioception in an individual, that is having a sense of balance and spatial orientation. It is due to the vestibular system that we experience the sense of self-motion. For example, if you are sitting in a chair in a dark room and if your chair is turned to the left, you will be able to realise that you have been moved to the left side - even if you are not able to see it. Similar is the case if you are in an elevator - such as you will be able to realise that you are descending if the elevator descends.

The vestibular system and the visual system work together to maintain the body position and posture of an individual with respect to the gravity of the earth. The muscles and the joints on receiving instructions from the brain via special sensory receptors, help in keeping the body in an upright position.

What Happens if the Vestibular System Breaks Down?

Any disease caused to the vestibular system can lead to vertigo and instability or the loss of balance, sometimes even accompanied by nausea or vomiting tendency. If the vestibular system and the visual system fail to work in coordination with each other, such as in a case in which the vestibular fails to report any movement while the visual system does, it leads to motion sickness. Any problems in the vestibular system cause balance problems, along with other conditions like vertigo, dizziness, nausea, diarrhoea fluctuating heart rate, blood pressure changes, anxiety or depression.


Symptoms of Balance Problems

Let’s brief up the common symptoms of balance disorders -

  • Having a sensation of motion or spinning like dizziness or vertigo

  • Increased risks of falling or having the feeling as if you are going to fall

  • Staggering while walking or moving unsteadily

  • Confusion or disorientation

  • Having a sensation of lightheadedness, faintness, or floating

  • Vision changes such as blurriness

Look up for more valuable information in this link:

Does Hearing Loss Affect Balance?

Hearing loss by itself does not cause balance problems, but if there are any problems in the inner ear, the vestibular system might get affected. This means that hearing loss might occur together with the symptoms of balance problems since the inner ear is responsible for both hearing and maintaining body balance. Certain common inner ear or other health conditions are also associated with balance issues, vertigo which includes -

  • Meniere’s disease

  • Otosclerosis of the middle ear

  • Ear infections, like labyrinthitis

In these cases, balance problems can be accompanied by hearing loss.


Can Hearing Aids Help Manage Balance Disorders?

People with hearing loss often find that wearing hearing aids can equalize hearing in both the ears and make you have a feeling of a natural and balanced hearing. This lessens the symptoms of balance problems such as vertigo or dizziness, risks of falling and disorientation. Additionally, hearing aids can also help reduce the impact of hearing loss to a great extent. Although this area of how far are hearing aids responsible in helping to manage with balance problems still needs proper research, yet the initial results are quite impressive and promising.

An interesting and proven fact is if the older people start wearing hearing aids instead of leaving their hearing loss untreated, their risks of falling reduces with a significant improvement in body balance and equilibrium. In short, an enhanced hearing makes way for maintaining proper body balance and posture.

According to the senior author Timothy E. Hullar, professor of otolaryngology at the School of Medicine, hearing aids allowed people to use the sound information coming from all the directions which acted as auditory reference points or landmarks which help to maintain balance.

Prof. Hullar compares it to our eyes when we use it to tell us where we are in space. If the lights are turned off, we tend to lose our balance a bit. Similar is the case with hearing and balance. Hearing properly can help you stay up without losing balance.


What are the Causes of Balance Disorders?

Although there can be numerous other causes of balance disorders apart from hearing loss, yet the ears play an active part in this system. The common factors that cause balance problems include -

  • Ear infections

  • Head or neck injuries

  • Tumours

  • Blood circulation problems in the inner ear

  • Low blood pressure

  • Certain medications

  • Arthritis

  • Eye muscle imbalance

  • Meniere's disease

To determine the exact cause of balance disorders, consult an Audiologist, who would perform the necessary tests to determine whether there is a problem in the inner ear. He or she might also refer you to an ENT specialist to perform the necessary steps to analyse the cause of the problem and to determine whether there are any other conditions responsible for the balance problems.

So if you are facing any balance problems, do consider visiting a skilled and trained Audiologist and get your ears tested.

Do check out this link to learn more about balance disorders and their causes:

We will add another blog about the tests done to diagnose balance problems.

Till then do let us know whether we missed out any fact.

Or are you aware of any other links between hearing loss and balance disorders?

We would like to know from you! Do share your valuable opinions in the comments below.

Comments | Posted in Hearing Aids By Hearing Plus

9 Tips to Handle Hearing Loss at the Workplace

Thursday, May 2, 2019 1:52:51 PM Asia/Calcutta

Have you been in those situations where you had an important meeting with your CEO and you couldn’t follow much of the discussion? Or in that situation where you had been struggling hard to listen to what others are saying but due to your inability to do so, you prefer to fake it, ending up in responding inappropriately with people getting irritated? You find your colleagues speaking to you or even reaching out to you for help, and end up making them feel strange about you. You often find yourself in such embarrassing situations and yet you prefer not to disclose your hearing loss to anyone because you consider it as a shameful secret.

We understand what you are going through. But do you know that ignoring your hearing loss is only aggravating your problems leading to critical situations? Won’t it be more stressful and strenuous for you to try so hard to listen to and get what your colleagues and/or clients are saying? This would make you feel tired almost for the whole day, resulting in low energy levels and lesser concentration and productivity at work.

It might also happen that you are might feel ashamed of your hearing aids and hence want to hide them or even avoid wearing them. But this won’t help! Ignoring your hearing loss would only add to your complications.

So here are certain tips to handle your hearing problems at your workplace.

  • Talk to your colleagues and team leaders. The best way to avoid these annoying situations is to talk! Discuss your problems and open up to the ones near you. Whenever you have difficulties hearing, do tell the person you are speaking with that you have hearing loss and that you need to be spoken to a bit louder. Trust me, sharing would only make your stressful situation a lot easier and people would really cooperate.

  • No, your reputation won’t be affected if you have a strong and good work record. Often you might feel that people might ignore you or stay away from you, or that your reputation may be affected. But the truth is if you have a good record of your performance then people will definitely cooperate, and even offer to help.

  • Talk with your HR manager for sitting arrangements or other requirements that would make you feel better. For example, you might need special accommodation or a good sound set-up such as a better conference room with a good speakerphone. Also, make sure that your workspace is well-lit so that you can at least understand many things depending upon lip-reading. Because you really don't want the trouble to frequently ask people to repeat themselves. Even if you are a new user of hearing aids, and having some difficulties understanding speech, do discuss that too. Your HR will make special arrangements for you.

  • Take the help of an interpreter if required. If you find it very difficult to hear well till you get your hearing problems treated, or because you are wearing hearing aids for the first time, do appeal for assigning a sign-language interpreter for you.

  • Speaking up the truth is rewarded. People will definitely cooperate with you if you share the difficulties you are facing due to your hearing problems. This might even make them share their own vulnerabilities when such an atmosphere is built. This will boost up the environment and you will feel at ease.

  • Sharing your problems will lessen out your stress. The truth is hearing loss does not remain hidden. People will soon get to understand that something is wrong with you. Although not everyone would realise that you are having hearing problems, the worse thing can be that people might think you are not intelligent enough or that you are a poor listener.

  • Learn about hearing loss. Do make sure to consult a professional Audiologist who will perform a series of hearing tests and determine the intensity of your loss. Accordingly, your Audiologist will suggest the best treatment. Your Audiologist will also guide you on how to understand speech when you opt your hearing aids for the first time.

  • Generations are changing. Nowadays, almost all the schools have special care section which helps to ease out those individuals who have some kind of special needs. Today, most children know how to take everything positively and confidently and they know how to learn each other’s differences. Also, hearing aids are becoming so cool looking these days with so many advanced features.

  • Use digital hearing aids. The latest digital hearing aids are quite advanced and updated which are designed to make your life a lot easier and pleasant. You will soon adapt yourself to your workplace environment or to any listening situation for that matter. The hearing aids of today have excellent directional systems to help you stay focused on speech so that you can participate in conversations better and listen to group discussions well. The digital hearing aids also come with so many other features which would make you feel good and not feel like an isolated being.

So without thinking much or getting puzzled too often, do consider getting your hearing loss treatment and don’t shy away from wearing hearing aids. If you think that wearing hearing aids would make others mock at you, then you are wrong. It’s your life, so you have to decide what’s best for you. Moreover, hearing loss is more visible than your hearing aids.

Comments | Posted in Hearing Aids By Hearing Plus

Want to Keep Your Brain Sharp Even in Old Age? Take Care of Your Ears!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019 4:01:53 PM Asia/Calcutta

Brain and Hearing

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Comments | Posted in Hearing Aids By Hearing Plus

Ageing and Hearing Loss

Saturday, March 2, 2019 2:01:14 PM Asia/Calcutta

It is true that hearing loss occurs in most of us as we grow older. Age-related hearing loss or presbycusis is quite a common issue these days that affects older and elderly adults, and sadly in most cases, it is unpreventable. You can only try to stay healthy as long as possible.

In the US, approximately 1 in 3 people in between the age group of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and about half of those who are of 75 years and above have difficulty hearing. Hearing impairment is ranked third in the list of chronic health conditions which affect people belonging to the age group of 65 and above.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, within the year 2025 there will be about 1.2 billion people over 60 years of age worldwide, with more than 500 million individuals who will suffer a significant hearing impairment from presbycusis, also known as an age-related hearing loss.

Presbycusis has a major impact on the quality of life of a person and is related to a significant reduction in his or her communication skills. It also affects the psycho-social aspects of an individual, such as inducing progressive isolation, possibly exacerbating anxiety-depressive status and/or accentuating possible cognitive deficits.

Ageing and Hearing Loss

Classifications of Presbycusis

Schuknecht, et al. 1993 categorised presbycusis into four types based on pathology and audiometric findings - sensory, neural, conductive, and metabolic (strial).

  • Sensory presbycusis is defined as epithelial atrophy and loss of sensory hair cells as well as the supporting cells of the organ of Corti, which arise from the base and progress towards the apex. In this type of presbycusis, the slope of the audiogram (a graph which shows the results of the pure-tone hearing test) occurs in the high frequencies, therefore, the speech discrimination is preserved.

  • Neural presbycusis results from nerve cells atrophy in the cochlea and central neural pathway. Atrophy occurs throughout the cochlea with no sheer or dangerous drops in the high-frequency threshold in the audiogram. The speech discrimination decreases severely even before hearing loss is recorded.

  • Conductive or mechanical type arises from thickening and secondary stiffening of the basilar membrane of the cochlea with a gradual sloping high-frequency sensorineural hearing loss. Speech discrimination is preserved in this type of presbycusis.

  • Atrophy of stria vascularis results in metabolic or strial presbycusis which affect the entire cochlea and show a flat curve in the audiogram.


Why Do People Get Hearing Loss as They Age?

There are many factors which contribute to hearing loss as you start ageing. Although it is quite difficult to distinguish age-related hearing loss or presbycusis from other factors that might be responsible for it, yet let us take a look at the possible reasons that might cause hearing loss as you age.

  • Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) - It is caused either by long term exposure to sounds which are either too loud or which last for too long. This exposure causes damage to the hair cells present inside the cochlea of the inner ear, which are responsible for converting sound waves into neural signals, thus making them ready to be sent to the brain via the auditory nerve. Once damaged, these hair cells can never grow or regenerate. They are gone forever! Therefore the term ‘permanent hearing loss’!

  • High blood pressure or hypertension - The link between hearing loss and high blood pressure is pretty simple. When your blood pressure is high, your blood vessels are damaged, which is not limited to just one area in your whole circulatory system and thus includes your ears as well and hampering proper blood circulation. In simple words, if the blood circulation in your ears is affected, your ears won’t work well and thus leading to hearing loss problems.

  • Diabetes - High blood glucose levels can damage the small blood vessels in the inner ear, thus affecting your hearing abilities.

  • Ototoxic medications - Medications, like chemotherapy drugs are toxic to the sensory cells of your ears, thus affecting their functioning and causing hearing loss.

  • Genetics - Yes your parents hearing health matters! Some diseases like Otosclerosis, Usher Syndrome, Pendred Syndrome, which cause hearing loss are hereditary.

Apart from these common causes of age-related hearing loss, there can be cases like sudden damage to the internal structure of the outer or the middle ear due to various reasons like a serious injury. However, these conditions are very less as far as presbycusis is concerned.

Studies show that most of the older people who acquire a hearing loss have a combination of both age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss.


Age-related hearing loss is a gradual process and often occurs in both the ears, affecting them equally. And the sad part is that in most of the cases an individual may not even realise that he or she is suffering from age-related hearing loss and that he or she has lost some of his or her hearing ability. And this realisation is generally late until there are some other damages associated with it. Of course, there are so many hearing loss treatment options, the most common being hearing aids, but you just need to take that action.

But the question arises, ‘How would you know that you have hearing loss?’

There are many signs which tell you that its time that you take serious action. If you are still confused about whether you are suffering from hearing loss, here’s a simple checklist for you. Ask yourself and try to answer all of them. If you answer with a ‘Yes’ to three or more of these questions, then it’s a good chance that you are having some degree of hearing loss.

  • Do you feel embarrassed while meeting new people?

  • Do you feel that others are mumbling?

  • Do you often ask people to repeat themselves?

  • Do you often find it difficult to understand what others are trying to convey and hence feel frustrated?

  • Do you face problems while listening to the radio or the TV and hence end up raising up the volume which is too loud for others?

  • Do you have a hard time hearing while at the movies or at the theatre?

  • Do you have trouble hearing when you are at a restaurant with your family and friends?

  • Do you face difficulties in understanding speech in a noisy area?

  • Do you have difficulties in differentiating between ‘s’ and ‘th’ sounds?

  • Do you have difficulty understanding what your co-workers, clients or customers are trying to say?

  • Do you often end up arguing with your family members because you are unable to understand them?

  • Do you often avoid attending social gatherings?

  • Do you often avoid making phone calls or even receiving them, thus end up giving excuses via text messages like ‘I was not carrying my phone’ or ‘My phone was silent’, etc.?

  • Do you have a sensation of ringing in the ears or tinnitus?


Now that you know that you might have hearing loss (and that’s why you are reading this blog), head on to know how to fight against it.


How to Fight Against It?

Do not panic! The first and foremost thing that you should do is to get up from your chair at the corner of your room and step outside your house! Visit your nearest hearing clinic or a professional Audiologist and get your hearing tested. An ideal Audiologist is supposed to test your hearing thoroughly, provide you with an audiogram report and explain you the test results in details. Depending on your test results - that is the type and the intensity of your hearing loss, your Audiologist will suggest you the hearing aids (devices that are worn in the ear to enable you to hear better) which would best suit your hearing needs as well as your personal preferences.

A good Audiologist will also do a test and trial with a few hearing aids of various types and determine with which device are you responding the best. Also, he or she would also help you out in the days to come if you face any problems with your device in the future - such as reprogramming and fitting.

Keep in mind that hearing aids are not like eyeglasses, which would give you a clear vision immediately after wearing them. Hearing aids don’t just work that way. It takes time for your brain to adjust to this new hearing world which it was missing for all these days because of your untreated hearing loss.

If, however, you find that your hearing aids are not giving you many benefits even after using them for a long time, then you need to consult your Audiologist immediately. It might be that your hearing loss is so severe such as in case of a severe to profound degree of sensorineural hearing loss, then your Audiologist might recommend you to go for a cochlear implant, an electrical device that is surgically implanted inside your ear and in which you would get a permanent hearing solution, and unlike hearing aids you don’t need to change the device after using it for some years. A cochlear implant only needs to be updated from time to time.

Apart from hearing aids and cochlear implants, there are other devices as well such as assistive listening devices which include telephone and cell phone amplifying devices, smartphone apps to enhance the listening experience and closed-circuit systems like hearing loop systems (example microphones) which are found in places like a theatre, a temple or at some other public event.

Lip reading or speech reading is another option to assist hearing-impaired people and to help them understand better what others are trying to convey. Lip-reading involves paying close attention to lip movement as well as other body language movements and gestures.


The best way to avoid hearing loss problems is to prevent it. Because prevention is always better than cure!


How Can I Prevent Age-Related Hearing Loss?

Although at present, proper preventive measures of age-related hearing loss have not been found, yet there are certain ways following which can help you prevent hearing loss due to ageing. These are as follows -

  • Protect your ears and avoid being overexposed to loud sounds. In this way, you can prevent noise-induced hearing loss. Use earplugs or other protective wearables whenever you are near a source of some loud sound.

  • Avoid the intake of ototoxic medications until and unless you have no other option.

  • Take care of your high blood pressure and diabetic problems by consulting good health professional.

  • Get your ears checked from time to time to prevent any serious hearing loss problems in the future.

  • Avoid smoking and drinking.

So stay healthy and hear better for as long as you can!

0 Comments | Posted in Digital Hearing Aids Hearing Aids By Phalguni Bannerjee

Binaural Hearing Aids: Discover the Benefits of Using Two Hearing Aids

Friday, January 25, 2019 1:22:57 PM Asia/Calcutta

Do you often ask what is the need for wearing hearing aids in both the ears? Do you know what you are missing being a single hearing aid user? Don’t miss out the joy of experiencing the wonderful world of sounds.

Read on to learn about the numerous benefits of binaural hearing aids, and how they can change your life!

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Comments | Posted in Hearing Aids By Phalguni Bannerjee
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