If you struggle with hearing loss, hearing aids can be a life-changing device that improves your ability to listen to the sounds around you. However, some individuals may wonder if hearing aids can cause dizziness. This is a legitimate concern as these side effects may coincide with your first time using these devices. However, there’s often more to it than meets the eye — dizziness and vertigo may result from underlying issues that an audiologist can help you identify.
In this post, we’ll debunk the common misconception about hearing aids causing dizziness. We’ll also cover why you might experience this dizziness in the first place and how hearing aids can help.
Dizziness and Vertigo: What’s the Difference?
While dizziness and vertigo are often used interchangeably, it’s important to note that they can involve different feelings and have unique causes.
What is Dizziness?
Dizziness is most commonly known to make you feel off-balance. It may come with sensations like lightheadedness or weakness. Dizziness can occur due to a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to: motion sickness, alcohol consumption, dehydration, blood pressure, low blood sugar, anxiety, or other conditions, behaviours, and abnormalities.
What is Vertigo?
Vertigo, on the other hand, is most often caused by inner ear issues. It’s the experience of dizziness, usually characterized by swaying or spinning feelings when you’re standing or sitting still. Ultimately, an individual with vertigo may feel themselves or their surroundings moving. This experience often leads to a loss of balance.
It’s important to note that vertigo is not a condition but rather a symptom of underlying conditions, like neurological issues, head injuries, or, most commonly, inner ear problems and disorders. Such inner ear issues may include the following:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV): Associated with dislodged calcium deposits in the inner ear.
- Meniere’s disease: The excessive buildup of pressure and fluid in the inner ear.
- Vestibular neuritis: Inflammation in the inner ear that could turn into an infection.
- Labyrinthitis: An inner ear infection that occurs because of inflammation.
While our ears are most commonly known to pick up sound waves, they also act as our central hub for balance. The inner ear consists of two critical parts:
- The cochlea: Responsible for hearing. It receives sound waves and transforms these into electrical impulses to send messages to the brain.
- The vestibular system: Responsible for your balance, spatial orientation, and overall feelings of stability. The vestibular system has three semicircular canals, which help detect movement as you tilt and rotate your head.
The symptoms of vertigo can include the following:
- Hearing loss in one or both ears
- Buzzing or ringing in the ears
- Ringing in the ears
The experience of vertigo can vary from person to person. Sometimes, it can last for a few seconds, while in other cases, it can last as long as a few hours or days. This feeling can range from very mild and subtle to severe — to the point where it’s difficult to do routine tasks and keep a consistent balance. Often, episodes can occur without warning and may not have a particular reason behind them.
Can Hearing Aids Lead to Vertigo or Dizziness?
Contrary to some opinions out there, hearing aids typically don’t lead to vertigo or cause dizziness. In fact, hearing aids can sometimes help if you exhibit these symptoms. As we age, we can develop various ear-related issues, like hearing loss. In some cases, hearing loss can be directly connected to balance disorders because hearing and balance functions are controlled in the inner ear.
If you experience hearing loss, this doesn’t mean you will also experience dizziness or vertigo and vice versa. The two issues can occur separately or, as mentioned above, be directly connected.
Some people think improperly-fitted or new hearing aids can cause confusion or disorientation, leading to dizziness or vertigo. If it’s your first time wearing hearing aids, you may need to allow for an adjustment period to get used to them. If necessary, you may also get your device adjusted by an audiologist. However, in most cases, the hearing aids themselves are not actually the cause of vertigo symptoms. If this is your situation, there needs to be further investigation to understand what underlying conditions you may be dealing with.
How to Fix Vertigo
As mentioned above, off-balance sensations could point to underlying conditions and hearing aids themselves are typically not the root causes of these experiences. In most cases, hearing aids can actually be beneficial if you experience dizziness or vertigo. Keep in mind that these devices are not a treatment for such underlying conditions but rather can help alleviate some symptoms.
For example, hearing loss can cause disorientation because it happens in the inner ear, where the vestibular system is located. Since sounds increase your awareness of the environment around you, hearing aids can help reorient you and potentially help with your experiences of dizziness.
Doctors may prescribe medication or recommend certain forms of rest if you have conditions like BPPV, Meniere’s disease, vestibular neuritis, or labyrinthitis.
Dizziness from New Hearing Aids or for First-Time Hearing Aid Users
If you notice dizziness when you first get hearing aids, this may mean your body is going through its adjustment period. It takes time to get used to the new intake of the sounds around you. Dizziness and other sensations are normal for first-time hearing aid users. These symptoms will typically disappear once you’ve acclimated to the devices if no underlying conditions are causing these feelings. If needed, your audiologist can also adjust the sound output to make wearing hearing aids more comfortable for you.
When to Visit an Audiologist
If you experience prolonged dizziness and vertigo symptoms after waiting through the hearing aid adjustment period, visit an audiologist. They can conduct a series of tests to determine the root of your dizziness. These tests can include the following:
- Hearing tests: Allows audiologists to identify causes, types, and degrees of hearing loss.
- Ear examination: A visual examination can help audiologists spot abnormalities in your ear.
- Electronystagmography: Used to evaluate people experiencing vertigo by placing electrodes above and below the eye. These electrodes measure electrical activity in the inner ear and auditory nerve. If your eye movements do not indicate normal responses to stimuli, this may indicate inner ear damage.
- Rotary chair testing: This test is typically done in conjunction with electronystagmography. It tests the functioning of your vestibular system. Rotary chair testing involves sitting in a rotational chair in the middle of a dark room. This chair is connected to computers and can help detect degrees of dizziness or imbalance by tracking the movement of your eyes.
- Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potentials (VEMP): Evaluates muscle reactions to a sound stimulus. This test uses a computer to measure responses, which can indicate the health of your inner ears.
How Robillard Hearing Centres can Help
If you notice issues with your hearing, book a hearing test with us today. If you also experience frequent dizziness, vertigo, or other balance problems, visit us at any of our locations across Ottawa and Eastern Ontario. Our experienced audiologists can assess your situation and help you determine the root cause of your symptoms. We can also provide advice on how to relieve your dizziness if the underlying cause is inner-ear-related, as well as how we can help you restore your hearing and improve your quality of life.