St. Joseph Health System
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Hearing & Balance

Hearing and balance problems can have dramatically negative effects on your life.  Communication is an essential part of relationships, and listening is a vital part of communicating.  We can plainly see that if we have trouble hearing, it can be very hard to communicate well. 

Hearing loss can lead to:

  • Social isolation
  • Withdrawal from meaningful relationships
  • Learning difficulties in children
  • Poor social developement in children
  • Emotional development in children
  • Symptoms:

  • Hearing loss may be gradual or sudden
  • Hearing loss may be very mild
  • Minor difficulties with conversation
  • Complete deafness
  • Vertigo 
  • The speed with which hearing loss occurs may give clues as to the cause.

    There are 2 basic types of hearing loss:

  • Conductive
  • Sensorineural
  • In addition to serving as the organ of hearing, the ears have a significant role in the control of balance. As the ears sense movement, they send signals to the muscles of the eyes, neck, trunk, arms and legs. These signals allow those organs to maintain a stable position even as the body and head undergo complex motions. A common symptom that arises from disturbances of the inner ear system, or vestibular system, is vertigo. Vertigo is either the perception of motion when no movement is present, or the abnormal perception of motion in response to movement.


    Conductive causes

  • Conductive hearing losses result from physical problems with the movement of the sound wave through the ear. A simple example is blockage of the ear canal.
  • Obstructed external ear canal - Cerumen (wax) build-up, or foreign body in the ear canal. This is one of the most common causes of hearing loss and the easiest to fix.
  • Perforated tympanic membrane-Caused by direct trauma such as a finger or cotton swab, middle-ear infections
    Dislocated ossicle (malleus, incus, or stapes) Usually from trauma to the ear
  • Otitis Media- Middle ear infection
  • Otitis externa- Infection of the ear canal that causes it to swell
  • Sensorineural causes

  • Sensorineural causes are from damage to the hair cells or nerves that sense sound waves.
  • Acoustic trauma - Prolonged exposure to loud noises causes the hair cells on the cochlea to become less sensitive
  • Head trauma - A fracture of the temporal bone can disrupt the nerves of the auditory system
  • Ototoxic drugs - Certain drugs can affect hearing by damaging the nerves involved in hearing, usually occurs when large or toxic doses are used but may also occur with lower doses
  • Vascular diseases (problems with blood vessels) and diseases in which excessive blood clotting occurs
  • Ménière disease - A disease that affects hearing and balance, usually associated with tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • It has a gradual onset and often progresses to deafness and severe vertigo
  • Acoustic neuroma - A tumor in the auditory nerve. Usually associated with ringing in the ears
  • Infections
  • Aging (presbycusis)

  • Vertigo Symptoms:


    Symptoms can be frightening and difficult to describe. Functioning in the workplace, going to school, performing routine daily tasks, or just getting out of bed in the morning may be difficult for some people. The following is a list of symptoms that have been reported by people with vestibular disorders. Not all symptoms will be experienced by every person with an inner ear disorder, and other symptoms are possible. An inner ear disorder may be present even in the absence of obvious or severe symptoms. It is important to note that most of these individual symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, unrelated to the ear.

  • Dizziness
  • Cognitive and psychological origins
  • Balance and spatial orientation
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Vision Problems
  • Motion sickness
  • Hearing Difficulty



  • Self-Help
    You can make it easier to hear and understand people by making sure there is light on the face of the person you're talking to, so you can see their lips moving, sitting close to the person you're talking to sitting so that your better ear is close to the person you're talking to
  • Medicines
    If you have a bacterial infection of the middle ear, it can be treated with antibiotics. Always ask your doctor for advice and read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine.
  • Non-surgical treatments
    If your outer or middle ears are blocked by ear wax, a nurse will be able to remove the blockage with a syringe.
  • Surgery
    Perforated eardrums usually heal by themselves, but if you have a large perforation you may need to have surgery to repair it. An acoustic neuroma or cholesteatoma can be removed by surgery. Ossicles affected by otosclerosis can be treated with surgery.
  • If there is no cure for your hearing loss, a hearing aid for one or both ears may help. Hearing aids can work for both conductive or sensorineural hearing loss. Many different types of hearing aid are available, and your audiologist will advise you as to which type best suits your needs.
  • When a hearing aid doesn't give enough sound amplification (eg in profound deafness), a cochlear implant - sometimes known as a bionic ear - may help. This device turns sound into an electrical signal that travels, via electrodes implanted in your cochlea to your auditory nerve, allowing you to hear sound. Cochlear implants work well in most people. 
  • Hearing Aids:

    At Central Texas ENT: Center for Hearing and Balance we are committed to resolving your hearing loss with state of the art care, and with state of the heart compassion.

    We understand that finding a hearing aid is an overwhelming process filled with many questions like; how it will look, or wonder whether it will really help?   Knowing more about the hearing aid options that are available to you, what to look for when buying a hearing aid, and how to "break it in" may help alleviate some of your concerns.

    Our hearing specialist or audiologist will advise you on which of the basic hearing aid styles and features best meet your communication needs and their related costs.

    Based on:

  •  your listening needs
  • type of hearing loss
  • lifestyle  


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