Balance disorders are conditions that are caused by a number of conditions. In most instances, experiencing a sudden feeling that your head is spinning and a sense of dizziness, in general, is caused by a problem with the inner ear. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV is usually the culprit, although it can signify another condition affecting the inner ear like Meniere’s disease. It’s important to take certain steps to prevent falls to avoid injury. One thing that can help is getting a hearing test.
What is a Balance Disorder?
A balance disorder is any type of condition that causes you to feel dizzy, unsteady on your feet or as though you have vertigo. You may feel as though your head or surroundings are spinning, you are floating or experience the sensation that you are able to fall.
While everyone gets dizzy from time to time, sometimes, dizziness can mean you have a condition that is causing the sensation. If you have vertigo due to the crystals in your inner ear being out of normal position, which is known as BPPV, the best thing you can do is see an audiologist first to get your hearing tested. If you speak with your primary care doctor or ENT doctor about your dizziness, they will likely refer you to an audiologist for testing.
Diagnosis of Balance Disorders
A balance disorder can be challenging to diagnose. If you don’t already have an ENT doctor, your primary care physician will refer you to one for an examination of your ears. You will also be required to see an audiologist who will test your hearing. Specifically, an audiologist who also specializes in checking balance disorders is what you need.
In addition to a hearing test, the audiologist will also perform an additional test known as posturography. This type of test requires you to stand on a platform that moves while a screen with patterns is positioned in front of you. It is meant to determine how well you are able to maintain your balance while you are standing on the platform.
Another test requires you to lay down on an examination table while the audiologist places air alternately into one of your ears and then the other. If you begin to experience dizziness while the test is being done on one particular ear, it means that ear is fine. However, if you have no dizziness while an ear is being tested, it signifies you have the BPPV in that ear.
Treatment of Balance Disorders
When you have an appointment with your ENT doctor, the first thing you can expect is a medical exam to determine whether your balance problem is caused by an underlying medical condition or medication. If it is found that a specific medication is the culprit, the doctor will prescribe an alternative.
If you have BPPV, you may be referred to physical therapy to learn certain head movements that can help to place the inner ear crystals back into proper position. The number of sessions you will need depends on your own personal needs. Although some patients feel relief after only one session, others may require several sessions per week for a few months.
To treat your balance disorder that is caused by Meniere’s disease, the doctor may recommend that you make changes to your diet and quit smoking if you are a smoker. You may also be prescribed medications to help combat vertigo and symptoms of nausea.
If you are at risk of a fall, investing in a Medical Alert system with fall detection is a great way to ensure you get the help you need in the event of a fall. With fall detection, an emergency response operator can be contacted even if you can’t hit your button.
If you have been experiencing dizziness and don’t know the exact cause, see a doctor at your earliest convenience. The sooner you are treated, the less likely you are to suffer from a fall.