Vertigo and Hearing Loss: Are they Related?

Last update on Jul, 22, 2020

At one point or another, you’ve probably stood up too quickly, and perhaps lost your sense of balance. Feeling dizzy or unsteady can happen briefly and usually isn’t cause for serious concern. However, when that dizziness doesn’t have a clear cause or occurs on a regular basis, there may be an underlying problem.

If you’re experiencing hearing loss, you might be wondering if a hearing aid could make things worse. Since vertigo is often linked to other problems related to the ear, this is an understandable concern. But it’s important to keep in mind that a variety of health issues can cause this condition. (Hint: hearing aids are not one of them.) Let’s take a look at some common questions regarding vertigo and hearing loss and clear up misconceptions and discuss how to treat vertigo symptoms.  

Understand vertigo episodes and symptoms

What is vertigo?

Vertigo is an unpleasant (yet common) condition that affects about 2 percent of the population, causing people to perceive movement that isn’t actually happening. It often goes hand-in-hand with other symptoms like hearing loss, buzzing in the ears, headaches, dizziness and sometimes vomiting.

What does vertigo feel like?

When people experience vertigo, they may feel that their head or surrounding environment is spinning. The turning or whirling sensation can cause lightheadedness, disorientation and sometimes a loss of balance. Although this might feel scary, it’s important to stay calm and breathe to center yourself if this happens.

How long does vertigo last?

The timeline for vertigo symptoms varies from person to person, but one episode generally lasts for only a few seconds or minutes. However, for some, the sensation could last for several hours or even multiple days. Certain people may experience very mild, brief periods of vertigo while others have more unpredictable and severe cases. The length of an episode can vary greatly depending on the underlying cause.

Discover the underlying cause of vertigo

What causes vertigo?

Vertigo can be triggered by a variety of other health conditions, and adults ages 65 and older are particularly susceptible. Although there isn’t one primary cause, it’s commonly linked to issues with the ear, including problems with the inner ear, brain or sensory nerve pathway. It can also appear as a symptom of an ear infection or Meniere’s disease, which is an inner ear disorder. Three out of four cases of vertigo are tied to hearing disorders.

Vertigo and Tinnitus: Can tinnitus cause vertigo?

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is related to problems with the inner ear’s vestibular system, just like hearing loss and balance issues. The buzzing, whistling or hissing sound that accompanies tinnitus is an indicator that something isn’t right within the auditory system.

Similar to vertigo, tinnitus is a sensation and symptom of another disease or issue—it’s not a disease in and of itself. People with tinnitus often have some form of hearing loss as well, but there isn’t evidence that tinnitus causes vertigo (even though they both stem from vestibular issues).

Can hearing aids cause vertigo?

The short answer to this question is no. Although vertigo and hearing loss or health issues are often related, hearing aids are not part of the equation. Medical experts have determined that hearing aids do not cause any known health issues and do not have negative side effects.

When you first get hearing aids, there is often an adjustment period of a few weeks. It takes your brain and central auditory system some time to get used to the new sounds and information it’s receiving. Nevertheless, once you settle into your revitalized listening experience, you’ll likely enjoy an improved social life, a new sense of confidence and many other benefits from your hearing aids. Hearing aids don’t cause vertigo—but there’s a good chance they’ll cause life to get better.

Can hearing aids affect your balance?

Although vertigo can sometimes cause a loss of balance, hearing aids do not. In fact, a study from Washington University found that treating hearing loss with hearing aids can actually improve balance. Receiving additional auditory signals appeared to help participants maintain stability. This evidence also suggested that older individuals in particular may benefit from a lower risk of falling associated with wearing hearing aids.

So, can hearing aids cause vertigo? The answer is no—hearing aids don’t cause dizziness, spinning or a phantom sense of motion. Similarly, hearing aids don’t create balance problems. There is not sufficient evidence to declare that vertigo and tinnitus are always correlated.

Find vertigo relief and explore treatment options

Cases of vertigo vary from person to person, and it doesn’t always require medical treatment. When symptoms appear, finding a quiet space to lie still can help you cope. Sitting down right away can also alleviate some of the discomfort caused by dizziness. Certain over-the-counter medications like antihistamines may also provide temporary relief for vertigo symptoms like nausea and motion sickness.

If dizziness and spinning sensations happen regularly for you, making a few simple lifestyle adjustments can also help you find relief. For example, consider squatting down rather than bending over to pick something up to maintain an upright orientation. Using a cane when walking may lessen the negative effects as well.

However, since vertigo often accompanies another underlying issue, it’s important to address the cause. Once a doctor detects the reason for a specific case of vertigo, they can determine whether there’s an appropriate medical treatment available.

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