While the relationship between allergy and balance is complex and not completely understood, there is an increasing appreciation that untreated or poorly controlled allergies can significantly impact balance function. Some examples are illustrated below.
Many patients with allergies have difficulty clearing or popping their ears, and when this occurs, this is known as Eustachian tube dysfunction. The Eustachian tube connects the back of the nose to the middle ear, and air passes through the Eustachian tube to allow the middle ear to work well in conducting sound from the eardrum to the inner ear. As it turns out, the lining of the middle ear, Eustachian tube, sinuses, nose share many common features, and if a person has hay fever, for example, the allergens will affect all those areas to varying degrees. When a patient’s allergies cause Eustachian tube dysfunction, the middle ears may not keep enough air to work well, and the patient may perceive a sense of unsteadiness or imbalance, that when the air is restored resolves. Often treating hay fever will significantly reduce the perception of unsteadiness or imbalance.
In a condition known as Meniere’s disease, there appears to be an excess of a middle ear fluid known as endolymph, which can cause intermittent tinnitus, hearing loss, and vertigo. The portion of the inner ear responsible for some of the endolymph fluid regulation is the endolyphatic sac, a region that is very unique in that it also has a role in our immune system. It turns out that some patients with both inhaled allergies (i.e. hay fever, dust, molds), and food allergies (i.e. wheat, dairy) can develop symptoms of Meniere’s disease, that improve or resolve when the underlying allergy is addressed.
If you have imbalance and allergies, the importance of an appropriate and timely evaluation cannot be understated. The health professionals at the Shea Clinic Ear Nose & Throat have the experience, expertise, and tools to help you understand and manage your imbalance and allergies, and we welcome the chance to assist you.