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Is Your Dizziness Caused by Hearing Loss, Aging, or Something Else?

You found ways to work around your hearing loss, but the dizziness is something else. Some days you feel fine, and others you can only sit perfectly still in a darkened room, waiting for the nausea to subside. Is there anything you can do to control the unpredictable swimming feeling in your head—and could your hearing loss be part of the problem?

What Is Dizziness?

Dizziness is not a disease; it is a common symptom of many conditions. It can range from confusion and disorientation to a severe whirling sensation known as vertigo. Patients with hearing loss may describe their dizziness symptoms as a general sensation of unsteadiness or an inability to keep their balance.

Types of Dizziness

The inner ear contains two separate chambers: one for hearing (the cochlea), and one for balance (the vestibule). These nerve endings in these chambers are suspended in fluid, and nerve impulses are sent to the brain when the fluid moves. If there are pressure or circulation changes in the fluid, the patient may experience dizziness.

The majority of dizziness is caused by otologic conditions, or causes related to the ear. Common medical conditions that can result in ear dizziness include ear infections, head trauma, interrupted blood circulation, tumors (acoustic neuroma), Meniere’s disease, or other conditions that cause inflammation in the inner ear.

In some cases, hearing loss patients may experience central dizziness. Central dizziness occurs when the brain cannot correctly interpret the nerve impulses it is receiving. A person with central dizziness may have a “swimming feeling” similar to the effects of being drunk or extremely tired. Some may suffer a feeling of pressure or fullness in the head, while others may have an unpleasant spinning sensation (vertigo).

Symptoms of Dizziness Due to Hearing Loss

Symptoms of dizziness vary from patient to patient, depending upon which functions of the inner ear are disturbed. Dizziness may be constant, but is more likely to come and go depending on the person’s activities and condition. Patients do not lose consciousness as a result of inner ear dizziness.

A person may have inner ear dizziness if he or she suffers from one or more of the following:

  • Unsteadiness or loss of balance
  • Giddiness or lightheadedness
  • A whirling or spinning sensation (vertigo)
  • Lack of coordination
  • Disorientation followed by sudden positional changes
  • Nausea and vomiting

Imbalance Related to Age

It is common for people to develop balance problems as a result of the aging process. As we age, the walls of our blood vessels tend to thicken due to a process known as arteriosclerosis. This condition decreases blood flow to the inner ear structures, causing difficulty maintaining balance—especially if the person stands up too quickly or suddenly changes positions.

Many older patients can alleviate these symptoms by rising from sitting or reclining positions slowly. Some may see balance improvement by using a cane to walk, getting proper vision correction, or taking steps on stairs or uneven surfaces one at a time. Since dizziness is a major cause of serious falls, older patients are advised to take as many precautions as necessary to improve their balance.

Diagnosing the Cause of Dizziness

There are many different underlying causes of dizziness, so patients will need an extensive evaluation to determine the source of their symptoms. Your doctor will first rule out serious or life-threatening diseases that may be causing your symptoms before moving on to a series of tests that will pinpoint the location of the problem. After a general physical examination, doctors may administer x-rays, blood tests, eye and ear exams, and detailed hearing and balance tests.

Treatment of Dizziness Due to Hearing Loss

Treatment for dizziness falls into three categories: medication, rehabilitation, and surgery. Doctors may prescribe diuretics to decrease the fluid pressure in the inner ear or nausea-suppressing drugs to ease the unpleasant symptoms of dizziness.

One of the most successful ways to ease dizziness is for patients to undergo vestibular rehabilitation. In this process, patients are asked to perform transitional movements (such as moving from sitting to standing) and evaluated to see which actions aggravate their symptoms. The patient will perform exercises to evoke and control dizziness as part of the treatment plan. If medical treatment fails to control severe dizziness, surgery may be an option.

The first step in overcoming your dizziness is to meet with our hearing care specialists for an evaluation. Call us at 866-517-4415 to make an appointment at one of our Florida hearing testing locations.