woman losing balance

Your sense of balance is dependent upon a complex system that coordinates your nervous system and senses with the information you receive from visual information to keep your body aligned with your surroundings. 

Even seemingly minor disruptions, like ear crystals becoming displaced, can negatively affect your balance. 

What Is BPPV?

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a disorder of the inner ear and the most common cause of vertigo. Vertigo is a type of dizziness that makes you feel like you’re spinning or the space around you is turning. 

While the condition isn’t life-threatening, it can be startling. BPPV tends to affect patients suddenly when specific postures or movements of the head dislodge ear crystals, causing a sudden spinning feeling. 

BPPV is common and can be treated in your audiologist’s office. However, patients who have these attacks often should explore other medical conditions that may be the cause. 

What Causes Ear Crystals?

BPPV occurs when tiny inner ear crystals are drawn out of place. Inner ear crystals help maintain your sensitivity to gravity and keep your balance. They’re held in place in the ear by a jelly-like membrane. 

If the ear is damaged, the crystals can detach and shift to other parts of the ear. When displaced, movements that used to feel normal can suddenly affect your sense of balance, creating ear crystals vertigo. 

How to Prevent Ear Crystals

Patients with certain health conditions are more likely to develop ear crystals vertigo. These conditions include:

  • Chronic migraines
  • Giant cell arteritis
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Head injuries
  • History of stroke
  • Inner ear disease

In addition to the above health conditions, patients who don’t exercise and lead a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop BPPV. 

Other causes of ear crystals vertigo include holding your head in a set position for a long time, like at a dentist’s office, and riding over rough terrain on a bike or in a car for an extended period. 

Symptoms of Ear Crystals

Patients experiencing vertigo from dislodged inner ear crystals often experience symptoms brought on by certain movements, with those symptoms typically lasting for a minute or less. 

Common triggers of BPPV are rolling over in bed, looking up while standing, and bending over. Ear crystals vertigo symptoms include:

  • A spinning feeling
  • Lightheadedness
  • Struggles with balance
  • Nausea and vomiting

Many patients with BPPV find their symptoms go away for weeks or months, or they may continue for weeks before they disappear without treatment. Unlike other causes of vertigo, ear crystals don’t cause other nervous system symptoms like speech problems or movement concerns. 

BPPV/Ear Crystal Treatment

For most patients, BPPV symptoms are occasional and eventually resolve independently. However, an audiologist may be able to stop your ear crystals vertigo with an in-office treatment that moves the loose inner ear crystals to a location where they won’t cause balance disruptions. 

Standard techniques used in treating BPPV include the following.

Epley Maneuver

The most common variant of BPPV is often treated successfully using the Epley maneuver. During this procedure, the head is turned sequentially in a way that moves the crystals out of the semicircular canal.

Patients who benefit from the Epley maneuver may still experience recurrences of BPPV, and subsequent repositioning treatments may be necessary. 

Canalith Repositioning

In canalith repositioning, your audiologist will take you through several simple, slow maneuvers that position your head so that the crystals move from the canals of your inner ear to the vestibule, where ear crystals don’t cause vertigo and are easily reabsorbed. 

Each position in a canalith repositioning procedure is held for about 30 seconds, and the treatment typically works after one or two rounds.

Patients who experience recurrent BPPV may receive instructions on exercises to alleviate symptoms at home. 

In rare cases where standard BPPV treatment techniques are ineffective, patients may undergo surgery where a bone plug prevents crystals from moving and causing dizziness.

Get Tested Today

BPPV can be disorienting and disruptive. Patients experiencing recurrent, sudden, or prolonged bouts of dizziness or vertigo should seek the assistance of a professional audiologist to determine the cause and potentially cure their ear crystals vertigo. 

The skilled audiologists at Happy Ears Balance Center in Mesa and Surprise, AZ, have vast experience diagnosing and treating patients suffering from BPPV. 

If you’ve struggled with dizziness and vertigo, schedule your appointment with Happy Ears Balance Center today.