How Are Our Eyes And Ears Linked? Skip to main content

January 23, 2023

By: Lindsay Beckler, AuD

How closely are your eyes and ears linked?

Close up of mans eye and ear

The human body is complicated and intricately connected. Our eyes and ears work together more than we realize, and the decline of one can adversely affect the other. Your vision and hearing are linked in ways you may not suspect. Both of these senses are processed by your brain to allow a total perception of your environment. The eyes and ears are physically linked by nerve pathways responsible for vestibulo-ocular reflex or VOR. This reflex connects the inner ear to the muscles responsible for the movements of your eyes. Combining these two senses allows you to be aware of your environment and to situate yourself in your surroundings as you go about daily activities.  

But what if your hearing or vision is not as sharp as it used to be? How will that affect you?

While they work together, luckily, our bodies can adapt to let one compensate for the other if one sense becomes less acute. In fact, you may have noticed how in the evenings when it is dark, you become more attentive to what you hear. For people who are hearing impaired, relying on their sense of sight is important. They can read lips and use sign language to communicate. In the case of visually impaired people, without the support of images in their environment, it becomes more difficult to keep their balance, avoid obstacles and in general, go about their daily activities. This is where the hearing system steps up, becoming an essential tool for getting around thanks to our spatial response to sound and the inner ear which is responsible for balance.

Are Eye Problems and Hearing Problems Related?

Over time as we age, it is not unusual that our hearing or vision can become less reliable. Annual eye exams are crucial for everyone, but especially for those over the age of 60. Eye conditions like glaucoma and cataracts become more common as we age, and early detection is critical in treating these diseases. Eye exams can also help uncover symptoms of other significant health risks, such as the warning signs for hypertension and diabetes. But when was the last time you had a hearing exam? It’s commonly thought that “when you lose one sense, the others become stronger.” Some people who lose their vision during childhood, for example, are able to rely on their hearing to get around. For the older population losing both senses at once can be devastating to their quality of life because it compromises their two primary modes of communication.

The Importance of Annual Hearing and Eye Exams

Studies have shown a strong association between age-related eye conditions and hearing loss, which suggests common risk factors or biological aging markers for the onset of both. The association between hearing loss and both cataracts and age-related maculopathy (macular degeneration) is especially clear from multiple studies done on patients between the ages of 60 and 90. Age-related vision problems may occur gradually, which is why an annual eye exam is so important for seniors. However, hearing loss may be even harder to detect, so it’s a very good idea to schedule a hearing exam along with your annual eye exam.

Where Do I Go From Here?

If you’re experiencing simultaneous hearing and vision problems, you’re not alone. Even if you’re only experiencing one or the other, getting both checked out may still be wise. Contact SightMD today to schedule an appointment at one of our seven locations across Long Island.