According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 69 million Americans have experienced some form of vestibular disorder, which can cause vertigo and dizziness, affecting all aspects of your life. Learn more about this type of disorder and what its potential treatments are.
What Is Vestibular Balance Disorder and What Causes It?
The vestibular system is a sensory system that allows you to have a sense of balance and spatial orientation, letting you coordinate your movements so that you can walk, drive, and perform all other activities. It is part of your inner ear.
The vestibular system has crucial structures called the vestibule and the semicircular canals. The canals have fluid in them, and the position of this fluid changes when you move.
Sensors in your ear send the information on that movement to your brain, helping maintain your balance. At the other end is the cochlea, the organ that allows us to hear.
When the signals do not reach the brain as they need to, you have a vestibular disorder. The disorder can make you feel unsteady on your feet and impair your daily life.
The most common causes of vestibular balance disorder are:
- Inner ear problems, including poor circulation
- Calcium debris in semicircular canals
- Traumatic brain injury
Although anyone can develop vestibular balance disorders, it is most common in older people.
What Does a Vestibular Evaluation Consist of?
A vestibular test can be a good way of evaluating whether you have issues with your vestibular system. The results of this test will let your audiologist know if your inner ear is the cause of your symptoms or if it may be a neurological problem.
The audiologist will monitor eye movements by having you follow a target and move your body in different directions. They will test how your inner ear balance system works and how you see and hear, and they can also consider your posture, movement, and coordination levels.
They can also perform a fall risk assessment, especially for older patients. By considering the fall risk assessment results, they can better understand whether the problem is in the inner ear or not.
Blood tests may be something else your doctor performs, as well as imaging tests of your head and brain. You can then discuss with your doctor what the vestibular evaluation revealed.
What Are Symptoms Associated With Vestibular Disorder?
Vestibular symptoms can vary. The most common ones are:
- Feeling like the world is spinning
- Feeling like you are floating
- Blurred vision
- Stumbling or falling
- Ringing in the ears
Some less common vestibular symptoms are experiencing changes in your heart’s rhythm, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, fear, and nausea.
What Are Potential Treatments for Vestibular Balance Disorder?
The treatment that will be most effective for you will depend on what the cause of the disorder is.
If an ear infection is causing the issue, medications like antibiotics or antifungal options can be the way to resolve the problem.
Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, like stopping the use of all nicotine products. Changes in diet and activity levels can also be effective treatments for vestibular balance disorder.
Canalith repositioning maneuvers, or Epley maneuvers, are sets of head and chest movements. These movements should reposition the crystals in your semicircular canals so that they no longer trigger vestibular disorder symptoms.
Surgery may be the best option for some people who do not get symptom relief from medications or lifestyle changes. The surgery aims to stabilize inner ear function, fixing whatever damage it may have.
Some people can also benefit from balance retraining therapy or vestibular rehabilitation. Your audiologist will show you how to deal with dizziness throughout your daily life and tackle things like driving, going up and down the stairs, using the bathroom, bending over, and much more.
Rehabilitation can also help you with simple lifestyle changes, like wearing more comfortable and stable shoes, learning how to walk with a cane or walker, and organizing your home to prevent falls.
Get a Vestibular Disorder Evaluation
If you have experienced symptoms of vestibular balance disorder, like dizziness, disorientation, or ringing in the ears, it is time to reach out to expert audiologists for a complete evaluation.
At Happy Ears Balance Center, we offer diagnostic vestibular evaluations at our state-of-the-art facilities. We can perform various tests to ensure we get the correct diagnosis and offer the treatment options that will help you the most.
With years of experience and the latest technologies, we are here to help you regain your balance. Request an appointment today.