And they let us do more than experience the soundscapes of the world around us. The inner ear organs also play a crucial role in helping us orient ourselves — in maintaining our balance and our spatial awareness. 

And when those organs start to fail, it isn't just our hearing that suffers. Consider, for instance, how many conditions and diseases are accompanied by a sense of vertigo or a loss of spatial orientation. These include, but are not limited to:

However, it’s important to note that if you're experiencing vertigo or struggling to maintain your balance, that doesn't mean you will inevitably experience hearing impairment at some point. There also exists a multitude of disorders that specifically impact one's balance, including: 

    • Labyrinthitis. Inflammation due to an infection of the middle or inner ear. When Labyrinthitis occurs without hearing loss, it's called Vestibular Neuronitis. 
  • Positional Vertigo. Also known as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). Characterized by brief stints of dizziness. It can occur as the result of a head injury, due to aging, or simply by moving one's head too quickly. Mostly harmless. 
  • Perilymph Fistula. A condition in which a defect in the membrane between the inner and middle ear causes fluid to leak from the former to the latter. Usually accompanied by dizziness and a feeling of fullness in the ear, and commonly the result of head trauma or whiplash. 
  • Mal de Debarquement. Vertigo occurring after a prolonged period on a boat, aircraft, or other vehicles. Characterized by a continual feeling of rocking or swaying, the disorder is exceedingly rare and not well-understood by the medical community. There is no known treatment or cure. 

As you can see from the shortlist above, the potential causes of disordered balance are incredibly diverse. And that's without accounting for those conditions that accompany hearing impairment. As with any other issue involving the ears, the best way to diagnose and treat a balance problem is by visiting a specialist — in this case, either a general practitioner or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. 

And if you're currently experiencing dizziness, vertigo, or discomfort in or around your ears, we'd strongly recommend making an appointment as soon as possible. Many of the conditions we've listed here — many hearing conditions in general — have a much better prognosis if caught early on. Either way, where your hearing is concerned, you can never be too careful. 

After all, until medical science says otherwise, you only get one set of ears.