January 3, 2011

Dizziness and the Inner Ear

Parker,-Molly-NEWBy Dr. Molly Parker
Parker Audiology, PC
(Don White Hearing Aid Center)

Dizziness is a straightforward symptom that has complex causes. Generally it is difficult to pinpoint an exact cause for dizzy symptoms but it is important to make sure that there is not a life-threatening event such as stroke causing your dizzy symptoms. If you ever have serious concerns about any medical symptoms, call your physician or call 911.

The vestibular organ is the balance organ in your inner ear. The right and left vestibular organs work together to keep you dizzy-free, and to orient you in space. The vestibular system and visual cortex to allow you to move, see and not fall down when you are walking. If one vestibular organ is not working, dizziness occurs. Often symptoms that relate to the inner ear are described as vertigo, which is a spinning sensation. You can experience vertigo when you spin around in a chair and then stop quickly.

There are several inner ear disorders that affect the vestibular system. The most common is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) which is caused by positional changes. For example, if you get up too quickly out of bed, a severe but momentary burst of vertigo occurs then goes away. The treatment can be very straightforward by a physical therapist or physician. Also common is Meniere’s Disease which can cause permanent hearing loss, rushing tinnitus (ear noise), and occasional vertigo. Meniere’s Disease is thought to be caused by fluid build up in the inner ear. Other inner ear causes of dizziness can include vestibular labyrinthitis, vestibular migraine, acoustic neruoma (a small benign growth), and superior canal dehiscence (SCD). If you are looking for more information, www.vestibular.org offers a wealth of information relating to vestibular disorders. You may also look at Healthy Cells for more information about Meniere’s Disease.

To assist with your diagnosis and treatment, write down specific questions for your physician. Be patient because many tests are usually ordered and sometimes multiple specialists need to be consulted.