Dizziness and balance disorders are common and may be dangerous! If you are experiencing issues with dizziness, lightheadedness, or are just feeling off-balanced, you should contact an audiologist or otolaryngologist (ENT) as soon as possible! Inner ear dysfunction may be to blame.
The center for the body’s balance is controlled in combination by the brain, eyes, and vestibular system of the inner ear. Having issues with dizziness or balance typically means another problem is present. A thorough medical and balance evaluation should be completed to help determine your underlying issue. While some causes may be treated with pharmaceutical, medical, or surgical intervention, others may require more intensive balance rehabilitation.
Defining dizziness is involved. Dizziness symptoms include everything from feeling a little lightheaded to off-balanced, feeling unsteady or as if you were falling. Dizziness is common, and may make you feel nauseous, faint, anxious, disoriented, or as if you were moving when standing still. Your vision may blur, you may feel a spinning sensation, or objects may appear to spin around you (vertigo). Some people may notice that difficulties worsen when changing head or body position. Make sure to thoroughly describe your dizziness to your audiologist or physician.
Dizziness and balance issues may be associated with something as simple as the presence of a foreign object in the outer ear canal, viral/bacterial infections, changes in blood pressure, or migraines. More invasive disorders can also be connected to dizziness and imbalance, including: vision disorders, vascular disorders, fistulas, Meniere’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and tumors (benign and malignant). Certain types of medications, considered ototoxic or vestibulotoxic, can be detrimental to the vestibular system causing imbalance or dizziness.
Vestibular evaluations (balance testing) may be recommended for some patients. These tests should aid in determining the cause, location, and symptoms. Most testing requires specialized devices, so a trip to the clinic may be necessary. In many cases you will be asked to follow a series of lights in various patterns with your eye movement.
You will probably also move through a variety of positions from lying down to sitting up while the evaluation is being completed. Let your audiologist or physician know of any back and neck difficulties prior to evaluation. You will probably feel dizzy during the assessment.
Here are Some Tips for the Day of Your Assessment.
• Do not eat heavily. If the assessment is early enough in the day and no other medical conditions will be affected, do not eat prior to testing. Bring crackers or another small snack in case the wait time to be seen runs long.
• Ask if electronystagmography (ENG) testing is going to be completed. If yes, do not wear make-up or lotions on the head, neck or face. A good connection to your skin needs to be maintained throughout the test. Make-up and lotions may affect the contact between the testing pads and your skin.
• Tell your audiologist about any major illnesses or back and neck difficulties you have. Other conditions may affect the way you are evaluated.
• If you feel sick during the assessment, let your provider know. They will assist you in any way they can.
• Have someone come with you. As your balance/dizziness may be affected, you may not feel up to driving or navigating your way around town following evaluation of dizziness and balance disorders. by Dr. Lynn O'Bray-Donohue