The inner ear contains two parts, one for hearing and one for balance. The cochlea is the hearing mechanism and the semicircular canals make up the vestibular system which is the balance mechanism. The vestibular system along with our eyes, muscles, and joints provides information to the brain to maintain balance. Damage to the vestibular system from injury, disease, or the normal aging process can cause imbalance, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, fatigue, or concentration problems.
Vestibular problems and hearing loss can happen from the same disorder. For example, Meniere’s disease often causes low-frequency hearing loss and vertigo. Growths on the 8th cranial nerve can cause both hearing loss and balance problems. Differential diagnosis by a physician is accomplished with highly specialized diagnostic equipment.
In the absence of vestibular deficits, falls are considered to be more prevalent in individuals with hearing loss because their concentration is focused on trying to understand conversations, diverting their attention or even brain activity towards gait, balance, or spatial awareness.