Read more below for information about conditions, treatment and diagnosis related to inner ear disorders.
There are many types of balance disorders, most of which have dizziness as one of the key symptoms. Here are some of the most common disorders:
Tumor, usually benign, that may develop on the hearing and balance nerves and can cause gradual hearing loss, tinnitus, and/or dizziness.
Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease
Autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED) is an inflammatory condition of the inner ear. It occurs when the body's immune system attacks cells in the inner ear that are mistaken for a virus or bacteria. AIED is a rare disease occurring in less than one percent of the 28 million Americans with a hearing loss.
Not a disease in itself, twitching, weakness, or paralysis of the face are symptoms of a disorder involving the facial nerve. Abnormal movement or paralysis of the face can result from infection, injury or tumors, and an evaluation by your physician is needed to determine the cause. An otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon has special training and experience in managing facial nerve disorders.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
Balance disorder that results in sudden onset of dizziness, spinning, or vertigo when moving the head.
A cochlear implant is an electronic device that restores partial hearing to the deaf. It is surgically implanted in the inner ear and activated by a device worn outside the ear. Unlike a hearing aid, it does not make sound louder or clearer. Instead, the device bypasses damaged parts of the auditory system and directly stimulates the nerve of hearing, allowing individuals who are profoundly hearing impaired to receive sound.
More information about cochlear implants is available at these additional sites:
A cholesteatoma is a skin growth that occurs in an abnormal location, such as the middle ear behind the eardrum. It is usually due to repeated infection, causing an ingrowth of the skin of the eardrum. Over time, the cholesteatoma can increase in size and destroy the surrounding delicate bones of the middle ear. Hearing loss, dizziness, and facial muscle paralysis are rare but can result from continued cholesteatoma growth.
Inner ear trauma
This refers to damage done to the inner ear from either excessively loud noises, sometimes called noise trauma, or from exposure to drugs and other substances that damage the inner ear.
Viral or bacterial infection or inflammation of the inner ear that can cause dizziness, loss of balance, and temporary hearing loss. It frequently is associated with an upper respiratory infection such as the flu.
Mal de debarquement syndrome (MdDS)
A balance disorder causing a sensation of rocking or bobbing, usually brought on by sea travel.
Inner ear disorder that can affect both hearing and balance. Although the cause is unknown, it probably results from an abnormality in the fluids of the inner ear. It can cause episodes of vertigo, hearing loss, tinnitus, and the sensation of fullness in the ear. A range of treatments may relieve the symptoms of Ménière's disease.
Migraine-associated vertigo (MAV)
A condition when vertigo is associated with a migraine, either as a symptom or as a related neurological disorder.
Dizziness, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and generalized discomfort experienced when an individual is in motion, typically in a vehicle.
Otosclerosis is an abnormal microscopic growth and repair of bone in the walls of the inner ear that may cause the stapes bone to become frozen in place or fixed. Normally the stapes, the smallest bone in the body, vibrates freely to allow the transmission of sound into the inner ear. When it becomes cemented to the surrounding bone by the disease, it prevents sound waves from reaching the inner fluids, and hearing is impaired.
"Ear poisoning" due to drugs or chemicals that damage the inner ear, causing temporary or permanent hearing loss and structural damage to the inner ear.
Leakage of inner ear fluid into the middle ear that can occur after a head injury, drastic changes in atmospheric pressure (such as when scuba diving), physical exertion, ear surgery, or chronic ear infections. Symptoms include dizziness, nausea, and unsteadiness when walking or standing that increase with activity and decrease with rest.
Superior canal dehiscence
The labyrinth is a structure contained within the temporal bone. This bony and membranous structure houses the hearing and balance function of the ear. Three loops called semicircular canals are a part of the labyrinth, which controls circular movements and motion. The top or superior canal can lack a bony covering. When this occurs patients may experience dizziness or disequilibrium, hypersensitivity to sound, low frequency conductive hearing loss, pulsatile tinnitus, or autophony, the perception of hearing ones own voice. CT scanning and advanced audiometric testing confirm the diagnosis. Treatment may involve a variety of surgical approaches.
Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the head or the ears. Typically, an individual perceives the sound in the absence of outside sounds, and the perception is unrelated to any external source.
Perception of movement (either of the self or surrounding objects) that is not occurring or is occurring differently from how it is perceived.
Migraine is a disease characterized by periodic headaches, but patients often experience other symptoms, including dizziness. In some patients, dizziness may be the only symptom.
An inflammation of the vestibular nerve that may be caused by a virus, causing dizziness. It is most commonly encountered after an upper respiratory tract infection or other illness. The vestibular nerve becomes irritated or inflamed and the patient becomes acutely dizzy and vertiginous. A key factor in this diagnosis is that no hearing loss is encountered. Diagnosis is made by historical information and the use of additional vestibular testing as needed. Treatment typically focuses on relieving symptoms. Physical therapy may speed recovery. Symptoms should resolve within 6 months.
Problems of the inner ear are often mistaken for other conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, even diabetes. While dizziness may be a hallmark symptom of balance disorders, it is also a common complaint with many other conditions. This is one reason it can be so difficult to diagnose balance disorders.
If you are experiencing dizziness, first see your primary care physician to rule out a medical condition, such as a stroke or infection. Your doctor can refer you to Ohio Hearing and Balance Institute or to a neurotologist, who specializes in balance disorders.
Special testing can help determine the cause and extent of your balance problem. Testing may include a hearing and speech exam, blood tests, or imaging studies of the head and brain, such as an MRI or a CT scan.
Other common diagnostic tests of the balance (vestibular) system include:
- Posturography - In this test, a patient stands on a special movable platform in front of a patterned screen. The physician measures how the patient's body moves in response to movement of the platform, the patterned screen, or both.
- Electronystagmography (ENG) - A method for recording and measuring eye movements and the muscles that control them.
- Rotational chair testing - In this procedure, a patient sits in a special chamber with a chair that rotates back and forth in an arc. A computer precisely controls the motion and records eye movements during the test using infrared video goggles. The test can help determine the cause of a balance disorder.
The caring professionals of Ohio Hearing and Balance Institute are eager to prepare an individual treatment plan for you. Treatment could include lifestyle recommendations, medication, physical therapy - or a combination of any of these.
For example, reducing sodium, alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine use may relieve dizziness and vertigo that that are symptoms of Ménière's disease.
Special physical therapy, called vestibular rehab includes conditioning exercises to improve balance and reduce dizziness. A vestibular rehab therapist will assess your situation and develop an individualized treatment program that meets your treatment goals.