Balance Issues—How Your Ears May Play a Part
posted by The Ear, Nose and Throat Team | July 8, 2016
Recurring spinning sensations, lightheadedness and disorientation can instantly interrupt your day and damage your sense of well-being. Since these symptoms are so disruptive, you might be surprised to hear that they are also pretty common. Dizziness, in particular, sends more than 90 million people to their doctor for a solution at least once in their lifetime. Of that number, 3.3 million are children.
Balance issues can strike at any age, and, both genders are equally likely to suffer from conditions affecting balance.
For many, balance issues continue until ear-related health conditions are resolved. Balance issues require prompt treatment to prevent trip and fall injuries. If your ears are the cause, as they often are, timely treatment can also protect your ability to hear and give the condition a better chance at fully resolving.
The health and structure of your inner ear plays a vital role in your ability to retain good balance. The main components helping to control balance are the bony labyrinth and vestibular nerve. Tiny hairs lining the labyrinth constantly take in information from fluid moving in the inner ear and send the data to your brain through the vestibular nerve fibers.
Increased fluid production, and the resulting increase in pressure, alters the information gathered by the hairs, often causing balance symptoms to suddenly appear. These changes affect your body’s ability to make automatic subconscious adjustments that keep you steady on your feet.
Although dizziness, spinning sensations, lightheadedness and disorientation are the most common symptoms of a balance disorder, subtle signs usually appear first as the condition develops. Subtle gait changes, rapid uncontrolled eye movements, blurred vision and floating sensations all point toward a problem with your balance and, potentially, your inner ears.
There are many ear conditions that cause your body to improperly control balance, including:
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo
Your physician will record your symptoms and perform diagnostic tests to identify the exact medical condition causing your distress. Your symptoms will help your doctor choose the most appropriate diagnostic tests. Rotation tests and computerized dynamic posturography, for example, measure your eyes and ears’ ability to work together to keep your body balanced. Otoacoustic emissions tests determine if the hairs in your inner ear are sending information through the nerve pathways. Auditory brainstem response tests allow physicians to determine whether the brain is receiving and processing the given information accurately. Ideally, the diagnostic tests will reveal the exact fail point in this complex process.
Once your doctor accurately determines the condition causing your balance issues, you can start discussing the available treatment options. If fluid accumulation is the cause, for example, your doctor may treat a particularly stubborn ear infection with antibiotics or drain the excess fluid out of your ear. For other disorders, such as Meniere’s disease or acoustic neuroma, surgery may be the best option. Surgical procedures are used to correct dysfunctional fluid pathways or remove structural abnormalities impacting nerve function.
Balance and ear disorder symptoms require prompt diagnosis and treatment to stop them from impacting your life. If left untreated, you may develop complications of the condition causing your symptoms. You can schedule an appointment with an ENT specialist at Revere Health to receive an examination and complete the diagnostic process. Your ENT specialist will help you identify the cause of your distressing symptoms and find the best treatment option for you before your balance disorder escalates or hearing loss becomes a problem.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.