Ears, eyes and touch contribute to sense of balance
People with balance disorders may experience a wide range of symptoms, including nausea, dizziness, vertigo, problems with vision and hearing, and sometimes changes in heart rate and blood pressure.
A complexity of systems, including the vestibular (ear), visual (eyes), and proprioception (your sense of how your body takes up space around you), contribute to balance and spatial awareness. Any one of these systems may be impacted by an injury to the head, an infection in the ear, or as a side effect of certain types of medications.
Types of balance disorders and testing available
Some of the more common types of balance disorders include:
- Labyrinthitis – Also called vestibular neuritis, this condition is caused by a viral infection or inflammation. Symptoms include vertigo, nausea, and dizziness.
- Ménière’s disease – A condition in which inner ear fluid creates extreme pressure thus causing tinnitus (ringing), a fullness sensation in the ear, and vertigo.
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – The most common cause of vertigo, a sensation that the room and things around you are moving even when you’re still. The result is dizziness and nausea, with possible vomiting.
- Vestibular migraine – A hard-to-diagnose condition (because there is no testing for it) that involves light and sound sensitivity, dizziness, and a disabling headache.
- Bilateral vestibulopathy – An inner ear imbalance affecting both ears, which may be caused by cancer drug therapy and some antibiotic treatments.
Balance disorder symptoms often resemble symptoms of other conditions so balance disorders aren’t always easy to diagnose. Your determine the cause of your condition, your doctor may prescribe different tests, such as:
- Electronystagmography (ENG)
- Videonystagmography (VNG)
- Rotation testing
- Computerized dynamic posturography (CDP)
- Brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER)
- Caloric reflex test
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
Depending on your condition and type of balance disorder, treatment may include a combination of medication, such as anti-nausea drugs, and balance (vestibular) therapy.