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Everything You Need To Know About Dizziness

Many people have experienced dizziness at some time in their life. Always accompanying other problems, it is not a condition in and of itself. Rather, it is a symptom of some underlying issue that is causing the dizziness to occur. How it manifests, and why, will vary from person to person. Because it is so prevalent, figuring out the cause can be difficult.

Something as simple as a hearing impairment can trigger the response. This is due to fluids that have gathered in the three chambers within the ear associated with balance. When fluid moves through these vestibules and canals, it can set off delicate nerves in the ear. This makes the brain think that you are moving. Such a false impression can be disorienting for the mind, and cause the sensation of vertigo.

How Balance and The Ear Coincide

The ear has a great deal to do with balance. The first part of your inner ear contains a vestibule and three inner chambers that run in a semicircle. This area is filled with fluid, that sloshes along every time the head tilts or moves. When it hits the sensitive nerves along the labyrinthine chambers of the ear, a message is sparked to the brain. It tells it that you are moving, and the equal movement between the two chambers gives you a sense of orientation. So if you suddenly turn your head, sit up from a lying down position, or change directions, your ears help your brain to respond.

But if one or both of your ears have been damaged, or are not working the way they should, your brain doesn’t receive these signals. The message may be incomplete, or only come from one side. This leaves your brain scrambling to figure out how you are moving. You will feel unbalanced and disoriented, and so your brain sends a signal to your eyes, telling them to begin moving back and forth to compensate for the lack of accurate information coming from your ears. This is called nystagmus, and it can make you feel as though the room has suddenly begun to spin or tilt.

Dizziness Caused By The Ear

The most common form of dizziness is referred to as “ear dizziness”. This is when a sudden shift in pressure within the ear canal, either by blood pressure or fluid distribution, causes vertigo. It can become a chronic issue when there is a consistent problem resulting in improper nerve stimulation, as a result. Sometimes this can be due to permanent damage in the chambers or vestibules. Other times it could be caused by an infection, or swelling inside the ear canal.

The second part of the inner ear is the cochlea, which allows the brain to receive other signals through vibrations against the delicate bones and eardrum, generating sound.

Disturbances in auditory function may be present at the time of dizziness, though it is a separate symptom. Other times, vertigo may occur without any hearing impairments being present. Infection is a common reason for both of these symptoms to appear simultaneously. Overstimulation of the nerve endings due to an overabundance of fluid is another reason for acute or chronic dizziness.

If you experience ear dizziness, you should take precautions before swimming. Because being underwater causes disorientation in even those without inner ear conditions, it can cause a greater problem for those who experience a balance malfunction. An attack during this time could lead to drowning. If both ears are affected by this condition, swimming underwater should be avoided altogether.

How do you know if you are experiencing dizziness due to your ears and not dizziness caused by a different medical condition? Only a doctor can tell you for sure. But there are certain symptoms to look out for:

  • Vertigo
  • Spinning sensations
  • Feeling light headed
  • Lack of balance
  • Sudden giddiness

You may experience these symptoms on a consistent basis, or every once in awhile. Sudden movements, especially moving from one position to another (such as sitting or standing up) may make symptoms worse. In bad cases you may become nauseous or vomit.

When you suspect you are experiencing dizziness attributed to your inner ear, visit with us at The Hearing Doctors of Utah. Our Audiologist will perform a diagnostic exam to determine what is causing the problem. From there, we can determine a comfortable treatment plan to correct your symptoms.

Infection may be present, but a number of other causes could be the culprit. These include reactions to certain medications, genetic conditions, growths in the inner ear, damage caused by noise pollution or trauma, improper circulation, and more. Your doctor will use x-rays, hearing tests, balance tests, blood work, and possibly neurological testing to determine your diagnosis.

Partial Occlusion Of The Ear

As we age, the walls of our blood vessels get thicker. While this is a normal process, it can lessen blood flow through smaller spaces within your ear. The ears are supposed to naturally adjust to this change, allowing balance to remain normal. But sometimes it doesn’t adjust to the partial occlusion, and shifting positions is enough to throw you off balance. In severe cases, chronic balance problems can occur.

There are both natural and medical treatments for circulation based dizziness. First, a medication will be prescribed that improves blood flow, and reduces occlusion in the ears. Second, the patient will be directed towards lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly, avoiding caffeine, managing stress, and quitting tobacco. Third, any conflicting medications that cause blood vessels to constrict will be removed from their regimen.

Positional Dizziness

Have you ever been moving and turn your head suddenly, only to feel an intense sensation of vertigo? Maybe you are laying down in bed, and when you turn over onto your side you feel like you are suddenly on a boat? This may be caused by positional dizziness (also known as postural dizziness). A condition caused by loose pieces of calcium in the ear, or by changes in circulation due to movement, it is a form of dizziness that many people suffer from.

Unlike ear dizziness, there is no medicine prescribed to treat it. Instead, your doctor may ask you to perform exercises that spark the vertigo over and over again. Eventually, the feeling subsides and you begin to have fewer episodes until they disappear entirely. In very severe and rare cases, surgery may be needed to correct the problem.

Age Related Imbalances

Aging is a common reason for imbalance that people develop over time. It will usually reach a certain level, and then remain there without worsening. With treatment, most forms can be corrected without serious medical intervention. Most age related imbalances are due to changes in circulation.

Positional (postural) vertigo is the most prevalent form of age related imbalance. It may also be present in younger people who have experienced some form of head trauma, or damage to the inner ear that causes inflammation.

Of course, some imbalance in older people is perfectly natural. When rising from bed in the morning, it can take time for the inner ears to adjust to the change in position. The faster you rise, the more severe the unsteady feeling may be. Vertigo, or just a general feeling of imbalance, can last as much as several hours after awakening. The best way to combat it is by preparing yourself to leave your bed, and doing it more slowly. You may also wish to use a walking stick when moving around, and to use sight orientation (focusing on a specific point to regain balance) as tools.

Dizziness Caused By Allergies

In very rare cases, a dizziness problem can be caused by allergies. You could be having a reaction to a food or substance, or certain environmental factors. When this happens, the only way to get rid of the dizziness is by treating the allergy. Elimination of the allergen is the first step, followed by medication or immunity boosting injections. A doctor can run tests to confirm allergies, as well as assist in treatment.

Dizziness Caused By Injuries

Several injuries can cause dizziness, especially trauma to the head. When this occurs, the inner ear, central nervous system, and nerves responsible for balance can begin to malfunction. That doesn’t account for possible neurological damage that could also be present, and causing the dizziness to occur. Sometimes lesser injuries can cause vertigo and other balance problems with no other symptoms.

Dizziness Caused By Labyrinthine (Inner Ear) Dysfunction

The labyrinthine system in the ear is usually a reference to the three chambers and vestibule that move fluid against the nerve endings in one of the two inner ear chambers. In the case of labyrinthine dysfunction, it is a reference to general problems that could be caused by infections, viral conditions, damage, etc, which are not otherwise specified.

Those who suffer from labyrinthine dysfunction can experience hearing loss, impairment, pain, tinnitus, imbalance, vertigo, disorientation, and more. Because the symptoms can be rather broad, finding the actual core problem may be difficult. A doctor will have to run a series of tests to determine the cause, including both balance and hearing examinations.

Once your doctor knows the cause, they can prescribe necessary medications, exercises, and even surgeries needed to treat it.

Dizziness Caused By Endolymphatic Hydrops

A rare condition, found mostly in people of European backgrounds, is endolymphatic hydrops. This is an overproduction of fluid in the ear, creating too much pressure and so causing spats of dizziness. In extreme cases, it can develop into Meniere’s disease (described below).

Due to its usual connection based on race (it is rarely present in people of Asian or African descent, for example), genetics is a major component of developing endolymphatic hydrops. Having too much salt in your diet, or taking particular medications, can exacerbate symptoms. Some of those symptoms can include nausea, dizziness, a loss in equilibrium, tinnitus, a heavy or oppressive feeling in the head, changes to hearing, and motion sickness. Because these symptoms can be incredibly similar to Meniere’s disease, it may be hard to diagnose one rather than the other. But those with Meniere’s disease will usually experience a sensation of the room spinning that can last as long as several hours, severe tinnitus beyond light ringing in the ears, and hearing impairment that comes and goes at regular intervals.

Treating endolymphatic hydrops starts with prescribing medication, such as diuretics that can decrease the amount of fluid putting pressure on the inner ear. Sometimes the problem will be severe enough to warrant surgical intervention, but this is only in extreme cases. Your ENT doctor can give you more information on potential treatments that work for you.

Dizziness Caused By Meniere’s Disease

As mentioned above, Meniere’s Disease is a condition that in some patients may include endolymphatic hydrops. Not all patients with endolymphatic hydrops have Meniere’s Disease, and vice versa. However, because symptoms are so similar, knowing which the patient is suffering from can be difficult to ascertain. A doctor will do a complete examination in an attempt to find the root cause, though in some cases it may be treated more generally if a full diagnosis cannot be made.

For most patients, Meniere’s Disease is caused by an increased pressure in the inner ear due to both an overproduction of fluid, and an under active metabolism within the inner ear itself. The pressure of fluid in the ear must be delicately balanced, or it can cause dizziness, tinnitus, motion sickness, hearing loss, and vertigo. These symptoms, which can lead to nausea, vomiting and even falling, may last several hours, and happen several times a day. Fatigue may follow these episodes. Emotional distress can increase the severity of these attacks, but are not the actual cause.

Treating Meniere’s Disease can be difficult depending on how long the condition has been present. There could be damage in the ears, the cause of symptoms, and other factors like age, general health, etc. The first step is medication, in order to reduce some of the fluid (through diuretics), or improve circulation (through inflammation reduction).

If symptoms persist, either in hearing loss or vertigo, surgery may be recommended. This is widely considered the most effective form of treatment. In the meantime, drugs meant to reduce dizziness will be prescribed to help the patient lessen the frequency of episodes. The sufferer will also be asked to eliminate caffeine from their diet, cut down on salt, and stop using tobacco products due to the effects of nicotine on blood flow.

Patients who only have hearing in a single ear, or who are experiencing Meniere’s Disease in both ears, may be given gentamicin injections.

Dizziness Caused BY Vestibular Dysfunction

Dysfunction within the vestibular section of the inner ear chamber can be best treated without any surgery. In fact, studies have shown an 85% of those who use vestibular rehabilitation instead of surgery find a decrease in symptoms over the long term, either partial or complete. Exercises are used to accomplish this, which help sufferers lessen dizziness when moving their head, or changing position (the most common times for an episode to occur).

After a thorough examination by a doctor, they will create a vestibular rehabilitation plan for you to follow. This plan will consist of numerous exercises that improve balance, reduce vertigo over time, and reorient the patient.

There Is a Cure For Dizziness!

As you can see, there are many causes of dizziness. Some may be genetic, some due to trauma, others thanks to separate conditions. Whatever the case, there are many treatments available for those who suffer from vertigo and related symptoms.

 

No one should have to live with dizziness. Find out more at Hearing Doctors.