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Ask an Audiologist: Nicole Ritter, AuD, Answers Your Questions About Balance, Dizziness, and Better Hearing

January 03, 2024
MUSC Health Audiologist, Nicole Ritter, AuD.

During Better Hearing Month, we asked what some of your questions were concerning hearing, specifically regarding balance, dizziness, and more. Here, Nicole Ritter, AuD, explains how hearing can impact balance and offers tips to help us understand how the balance system in our ears works.

Q: Where is the balance organ?

A: The balance organ is located in the inner ear next to the hearing organ. The hearing organ is the snail-like structure, and the balancing organ is made up of three semi-circular canals and two otolith organs.

Q: How does the balance system work?

A: The organ in our inner ear acts like a gyroscope. There is a system of reflects in our body connected to the inner ear to help us keep our balance. Each structure is connected to a different motion. The canals are responsible for angular motions, while the otolith structures are responsible for linear movements.

Q: What are ear crystals?

A: These are small particles, mostly consisting of calcium carbonate, that are supposed to be in the ear. They should exist and live in the utricle at the base of the canals. These crystals provide weight to the balance organ to detect and send signals to the brain.

Q: What is BPPV?

A: BPPV is Benign Proximal Positional Vertigo. This occurs when the crystals are displaced. They may be floating or stuck to a different part of the balance system.

Q: How do you treat BPPV?

A: A common treatment for this is a maneuver. It is very similar to the game where there is a marble in a maze that you must move to the end of the maze. We kind of do this in the balance system, so we move the head and the body to get it back into place.

Q: Can hearing aids help me keep my balance?

A: The short answer is yes. For every five to 10 decibels of hearing loss that is corrected by amplification, your fall risk is reduced by quite a bit.

Experiencing Hearing Loss or Need a Hearing Test?

Our facilities are equipped for diagnostic hearing and balance testing, hearing aid dispensing, cochlear implants, and full treatment programs. Visit audiology adult services at MUSC Health to learn more, or call 843-792-3531 to schedule an appointment.