If you’ve ever felt dizzy after standing up suddenly, or you’ve been travel sick, then the culprit is your inner ear not working fast enough to adjust your sense of balance.
This slowness to adjust is called vertigo, and the medical term for the most common form of it is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
I’ll explain first how the ears work to maintain your sense of balance and then talk about the signs and symptoms of BPPV.
How Ears Maintain Your Balance
The auditory system is an incredible mix of bones, hairlike cells, nerves, and fluid that all work together so you can hear and stay balanced.
This system is made up of three parts – the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The inner ear is the main one that keeps your balance stable.
In the inner ear is what’s called a vestibular labyrinth with fluid-filled, semicircular canals. This fluid responds to gravity, so if you move, so will the fluid. Ideally, the fluid settles back into position correctly.
But if it doesn’t settle quickly, the auditory system’s sensors tell the brain that you’re not balanced yet, and you feel dizzy or lightheaded.
One of the main culprits of the fluid not settling properly is when calcium crystals — called otoconia or otoliths — move into the semicircular canals and upset the system.
Signs Your Balance Is “Off”
The feeling of being off balance can happen suddenly. You might turn in bed, stand up quickly, or move your head quickly. Sometimes, you can feel dizzy after not moving at all.
Even changes in humidity or air pressure can cause vertigo, as can insufficient sleep, hydration, or stress.
The dizziness can make you feel nauseated, and you might want to vomit. You might feel as if everything around you is spinning and you have to sit down or lie down. Your eye might start twitching.
Causes Of Balance Disorders
Aging is the most common reason for vestibular disorders, but some of the less common ones are:
- Labyrinthitis or vestibular neuronitis – inflamed or infected nerves in the inner ear.
- Ménière’s disease – a disease that affects the pressure in the middle ear.
- Perilymph fistula – this happens if fluid leaks from the inner ear into the air-filled middle ear. This sometimes happens after a head injury or after scuba diving.
- Mal de debarquement syndrome (MdDS) – or disembarkment syndrome. This can happen after you get off a boat or plane.
Vertigo Treatment Options
There’s no one size fits all when it comes to balance issues, so the first step to treating it is to find the cause, and the sooner the better – because of the risk of falls.
One of our Clarity Hearing professionals can diagnose the reason for your imbalance and suggest the best treatment options. We’ll do a physical check to test how well your inner ear and middle ear are functioning with a hearing and tympanometry test and check how your eyes move when you move your head in different ways.
If we find you have BPPV, we can try some simple crystal repositioning moves by tilting your head, while you’re sitting or lying down, to move the crystals back into the correct position.
Or we might recommend something called customized vestibular habituation therapy, which has great results of considerably lessening the dizziness.
If the cause of your vertigo is one of the medical conditions listed above, we might prescribe antibiotics or some motion sickness medication, or we will refer you to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist.
Diagnose And Treat Your Vertigo With Clarity Hearing
We look forward to helping you regain your balance.