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Yes. Your dexterity continues to increase as you become more powerful, and balance stops at 80%. Balance upgrades won't be useful after a certain stat threshold. So I agree that damage is a better choice.
Speaking of hammers, durability is also a weapon stat that can be sacrificed when upgrading. You can consider cutting durability for more powerful upgrades and using durability hammers to restore the lost durability at a later time.
Check for the Black Orb in your Special Inventory, which is the tab labeled "Me." Personalized and quest items frequently go there. When you talk about the "backroom" dungeon, it sounds like you may be at Alby Dungeon instead of Albey Dungeon. Albey Dungeon is in the other world's version of Tir Chonaill. The room in the back of Alby Dungeon is to access Hard Mode Alby Advanced Dungeon after restoring the Mangled Alby Dungeon Pass.