Your ears do far more than just control your hearing. They are also integral to your sense of balance.
If you’ve ever experienced a spinning feeling when you move your head or felt motion sickness, or you move suddenly from a different position and you can’t stand up properly, it’s probably because your inner ear is having a hard time adjusting to the movement.
The most common reason for vertigo is due to a disorder called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
Although BPPV can happen at any age, short- or long-term balance issues usually begin after the age of 50 and it’s twice as likely to occur in women.
Here at Pacific Hearing, Inc., we are very familiar with treating balance problems, and so below we’ve posted an explanation of why it happens and what can be done about it.
How the Ears Work
The ear is set up in a certain way: You have an outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The inner ear has a vestibular labyrinth made up of semicircular canals, which have fluid in them, and also sensors that monitor your head’s movements.
Picture your inner ear like a carpenter’s level. The fluid in the semicircular canals follows gravity when it’s working properly.
The inner ear also has calcium crystals in it — called otoconia or otoliths — that sometimes move into the semicircular canals rather than stay put. They change up the gravity settings in there, which then affects how the fluid settles.
Once the fluid is off-kilter, the sensors that send messages to the brain to tell the body how to stay upright change, and your body can’t balance itself in the way it’s supposed to do for a few seconds to one minute.
When You Have Balance Problems
When you have balance problems:
- It can happen suddenly.
- You feel like you are spinning.
- Your eye(s) might start “beating” or twitching.
- You might feel nauseated.
- The feeling might make you vomit.
- You might feel faint.
What Triggers the Dizziness?
The dizziness can be triggered by moving your head up, down, or sideways suddenly, or by rolling over in bed, but you might not have moved at all yet feel dizzy.
Things that can make it worse are:
- Changes in pressure – upcoming rain or snow
- Not enough sleep
What Causes Balance Disorders?
A balance issue can often be due to the aging process, resulting in slow deterioration of the inner ear. If you don’t have BPPV, the balance disorder might be caused by motion sickness or other diseases such as:
- Labyrinthitis or vestibular neuronitis – infection and/or inflammation in the inner ear
- Ménière’s disease – increased pressure in the inner ear
- Perilymph fistula – fluid leaking from the inner ear into the middle ear (often after a head injury or scuba diving)
- Mal de debarquement syndrome (MdDS) – also called disembarkment syndrome, is when you feel you are still on the boat or plane after getting off it
Diagnosing and Treating a Loss of Balance
Fortunately, vertigo usually resolves itself within days or months, but it often returns at random, which is why it’s wise to have it diagnosed and treated correctly, especially when dizziness can cause nasty falls.
Your treatment options:
- If we’ve diagnosed BPPV to be the reason behind your vertigo, there are a number of repositioning maneuvers we can try to force the crystals/otoconia back into their proper place in your inner ear. This is non-invasive and pain-free, and it could be as simple as tilting your head a certain way.
- We might also recommend habituation therapy, which statistically helps about 82% of patients dramatically or considerably.
- If the balance disorder is particularly severe and not caused by BPPV, there are a number of medications that we can prescribe to minimize the unpleasant symptoms such as antibiotics for labyrinthitis or motion sickness medication for MdDS.
Your Next Steps
Contact us with any questions about your balance or to set up an appointment for yourself or a loved one.
Here at Pacific Hearing, Inc., we’ve treated hundreds of patients with vertigo, and we also get numerous referrals for it from other doctors in the Los Angeles area because they trust our knowledge and expertise.
We’re here for you, and our goal is always to ensure your hearing and balance issues are fully addressed and treated in a helpful and professional manner.