A Few Words...

What is written here is my opinion and personal experience only. I am not qualified to give advice - medical, legal, or otherwise. Please be responsible and do your own research regarding treatments, diets, doctors, and alternative therapies.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Hearing Aids and Balance

Another long absence between posts, sorry, but it just means I've been well and with not too much new to report.  I'm still stable on my current treatment.  But an article I read today prompted me to write this post.

As most of you know, I am a huge fan of my hearing aid (HA).  Based on my own experience and the experiences others have related to me, it seems those of us with Meniere's-related hearing loss tend to be discouraged from getting an HA.  I suspect this is probably not based on any good evidence that HAs have been proven NOT to be beneficial, but more likely on the lack of evidence that they are.  Just about everything I've read or been told on the subject has only been anecdotal.

Understandably, our hearing often does fluctuate, making it a challenge to get and keep the HA properly adjusted.  Also, HAs are expensive so it might seem a waste of money if there's little reason to think it's going to significantly improve one's quality of life,  But in speaking with others with Meniere's disease who have tried an HA and also on what my doctors have said, I'd beg to differ.  The idea that an HA might not be effective for us seems to be based on (1) unrealistic expectations of how an HA can help in ways other than perfecting our hearing (it won't) and (2) not giving the brain enough time to adjust to the HA (in my case, it seemed to take 6-8 weeks for my brain to really rewire and adjust to processing and interpreting sound again).

Anyway, here's an article reporting on a small study which found that HAs might actually improve balance function in people with hearing loss.  After adjusting to my HA, I definitely felt it helped with my balance, as well as echolocation and reducing mental fatigue from straining to hear and process all the sound around me all the time.  I hope more work is done in this area to validate that HAs may do more than just amplify sound for those of us with Meniere's.

Do Hearing Aids Improve Balance?
By Alan Desmond On January 13, 2015 ·

A couple of years ago, I published a post on this blog about a study connecting hearing loss with increased risk of falls. My angle in the post was “Maybe there is a connection, maybe there isn’t, but what should we do with this information?”

Researchers at Washington University of St. Louis decided to investigate whether balance could be improved by treating those with hearing loss with hearing aids. They were specifically interested in whether hearing (in addition to vestibular, visual and proprioceptive) feedback contributed to improved performance on simple balance function testing.

Patients underwent two simple balance tests: the Romberg (eyes closed on foam) and tandem stance (heel to toe) with eyes closed. Throughout the test period, the patients were provided with what is described as “a point-source broadband white-noise sound (0–4 kHz).” Balance was assessed both with and without hearing aids in place.

The study did show that balance performance was improved, both objectively and subjectively, when hearing aid wearers had their hearing aids on and functioning. As noted by the authors “This is a small study. Obviously it needs to be repeated in a much larger study, and we’re seeking funding to do that.”

This is interesting on many levels: It helps support the idea of an association between hearing loss and increased fall risk, and it adds one more potential treatment option in the battle to reduce falls in the elderly. It will be more interesting to see where this research takes us.


  1. I loved my hearing aids when I first got them. However, it wasn't long before my hearing dropped so much that they did no good. I think I'm in the extreme minority though. Within 3 months of getting my hearing aids one was useless. In 6 months I could barely hear at all. I was getting a cochlear implant within a year. The next year, I was getting the second CI.

    The odd thing is, my hearing still fluctuates with my CI's. Many with Menier's I've talked to do not have this happen, however, some do. Usually only after an attack. They have to then have their CI's adjusted. I think most do not notice that their hearing still fluctuates because often they stop having attacks after they get CI's. (when you get CI's you have the same surgery you would when you have endolymphatic enhancement surgery, and you are often at such at an advanced stage of Meniere's you are often not having as many attacks anyway.) I have not slowed down in the attacks. I still have a lot of mini attacks too. My hearing fluctuates daily. I mean, it sounds different in the morning than it does at night. It is odd. I have found no one who is like me.
    My audiologist is writing a paper about how Meniere's patients with CI's hearing will fluctuate after having an attack. and I'm at the extreme odd ball in it all. :-)
    But as my doctor has tole me recently....yes, it is more than Meniere's.
    so, who knows how much input I can really have. LOL.

    I'm so glad your hearing aid works so well for you!!

    1. I'm sorry, Wendy. :-( I know this really stinks (understatement!!). I hope you and your doctors don't stop looking for something which could bring you any measure of relief.