Have you ever felt as if you were spinning when you move your head, or have you suffered from travel sickness or been unable to stand after moving suddenly?
This dizziness happens when your inner ear can’t adjust quickly enough to the movement, and it’s called vertigo.
The most common reason for vertigo is due to a disorder called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), a disorder we treat often at Fox Valley Ear, Nose & Throat.
I’ll discuss the signs of BPPV in a moment, but before I do that, I’d like to explain how the ears manage your balance.
How The Auditory System Manages Your Balance
Your auditory system is a fascinating combination of bones, nerves, fluid, and hairlike cells that not only control your hearing but also your sense of balance.
These parts in your outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear work together to tell your body how to balance. The inner ear in particular plays a role in keeping you steady on your feet.
The semicircular canals in the inner ear’s vestibular labyrinth have fluid in them that follows gravity, so if anything affects how that fluid settles, the sensors (that send messages to the brain to tell the body how to stay upright) change their message.
And for a few seconds to a minute or two, your body can’t balance itself in the way it’s supposed to.
One of the actions that can affect gravity in the inner ear is when its calcium crystals — called otoconia or otoliths — move into the semicircular canals. This affects the fluid’s position.
Balance problems can happen suddenly and cause you to feel nauseated or faint. You feel like you are spinning. You might vomit. Your eye might start “beating” or twitching.
You might think vertigo can’t be treated and that once you suffer from one bout of dizziness, you’re stuck with it, but this is not true.
Our team of ENT doctors at Fox Valley ENT offers comprehensive testing that can help to diagnose balance problems and help find a solution.
Our board-certified physicians and clinical audiologists have helped thousands of people with balance problems over the past 40 years, and we can help you too.
You might feel dizzy when you move your head up or down or sideways suddenly. Sometimes the dizziness occurs when you roll over in bed or when you stand up. But you might suddenly feel dizzy without moving your head at all.
Certain circumstances can also trigger your dizziness such as pressure changes — upcoming rain or snow — lack of sleep, stress, or dehydration.
Causes Of Balance Disorders
The aging process is one of the more common reasons for a balance issue because of the slow deterioration of the auditory system.
Other causes include:
- Labyrinthitis or vestibular neuronitis – the nerves in the inner ear are infected or inflamed.
- Ménière’s disease – this increases the pressure in the inner ear.
- Perilymph fistula – fluid leaking from the inner ear into the air-filled middle ear (sometimes occurs after a head injury or scuba diving).
- Mal de debarquement syndrome (MdDS) – or disembarkment syndrome, is when you feel as if you are still on the boat or plane after getting off it.
Diagnosing And Treating A Loss Of Balance
Vertigo does not usually last for more than a few days or months, but it can recur. Because of the many possible medical reasons for its occurrence, it is wise to see an audiologist to diagnose and treat it correctly, not to mention the risk of falls.
Your exam at Fox Valley ENT might include a physical exam of your ear, nose, and throat; testing of your inner ear and middle ear functioning with a hearing and tympanometry test; and a check of your eye movement when you move your head in different ways with diagnostic videonystagmography (VNG).
If we diagnose you with BPPV, we can try some crystal repositioning maneuvers to move the crystals back to where they should sit in your inner ear. For this, we might simply move your head in different positions on a tilted chair.
Habituation therapy is another possible treatment we might recommend. It has a high 82% success rate of treating your vertigo dramatically or considerably.
If the balance disorder is caused by other medical conditions, such as labyrinthitis, we might prescribe antibiotics or motion sickness medication for MdDS.
Your Next Steps
Your first step to treating your balance issues is to contact us to set up a hearing test and ENT check at our Algonquin, Elgin, St. Charles, or Huntley location. The results of this will define our diagnosis and treatment plan.
As Fox Valley’s most trusted ear, nose, and throat doctors since 1980, we’re here to help you resolve your balance issues quickly and expertly. We look forward to hearing from you.