GOLD COUNTRY HEARING

Balance

Gold Country’s Dizzy and Balance Disorder Experts

When you step off a boat that’s been tossed around by waves, it’s normal to feel like you’re still rocking back and forth.

But what if you witnessed this regularly, without going to sea? Put simply, this may mean you have a balance issue. 

The Background

Balance issues are common. The National Institute of Health (NIH) suggests that dizziness or loss of balance will affect 90 million Americans during their lifetime.

In addition, for many people, a balance issue isn’t just an everyday inconvenience. It’s also hazardous to their overall health.

That’s because, sadly, balance-related falls account for more than one-half of accidental deaths in the elderly.

Associated injuries are also prevalent, with balance-related problems causing over 300,000 hip fractures in individuals over 65 years of age each year.

What’s The Cause?

Vertigo and imbalance are the #1 complaint of patients over 70 years of age. The balance system involves cues from our visual system, vestibular system, and our proprioceptive system (sensory input from our muscles and joints). Any disturbance in these systems can result in balance issues.

The vestibular system is located in the inner ear and detects movement and changes in your head position.  Disorders of the vestibular system may cause a variety of serious problems such as vertigo, imbalance, nausea and vomiting. Damage in the vestibular system can affect people of any age and can be due to disease, syndromes, toxins, or trauma.

The Symptoms

If you suspect you have a balance disorder, there are two key symptoms you might witness:

  • The initial one is a sense of dizziness, vertigo, or motion intolerance. This may result from rapid head movements or turning too quickly. You could just experience this issue briefly or it could last for several hours at a time.
  • The second phase of a balance disorder is a persistent feeling of unsteadiness or imbalance. You might also find it hard to walk, with the problem potentially making any form of upright movement extremely difficult.
The American Institute of Balance

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

According to J. Hornibrook (2011), BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo. The symptoms include brief (10 seconds -1.5 minutes) recurrent episodes of external spinning vertigo that is provoked by change in head or body position. These changes in head or body position can include rolling over in ed, lying down, bending over, or looking up at the top shelf.  The symptom of vertigo may repeat for days/weeks then be absent for days/weeks and suddenly return. BPPV more commonly occurs in adults but can also affect young individuals particularly after a head injury.

Why Does it Occur?

BPPV occurs when calcium carbonate, otoconia, migrates into one of the semi-circular canals from the utricle. The misplaced otoconia affects the normal movement of fluid inside the semi-circular canal and causes a false signal to be sent to the brain which in return, causes a sense of dizziness with movement. BPPV.

How Do We Treat BPPV?

Canalith Repositioning is the physical maneuver treatment that has been successfully used to treat BPPV for the last 25 years.  The treatment takes only minutes and is successful in treating 95% of patients usually in less than 3-4 treatments. These maneuvers help to remove the otoconia from the semicircular canal and bring them back to the utricle where they derived from.     

Vertigo, Imbalance and Motion Sickness

Equilibrium disorders fall into two main categories.  The first is dizziness, vertigo and motion intolerance. These conditions may be worsened by rapid head movementturning too quickly, walking or riding in a car.  These symptoms can be acute or sharp attacks lasting for seconds or sometimes for several hours. 

The second is a persistent sense of imbalance or unsteadiness.  Some people refer to this as loss of surefootedness.  

There can be many causes of dizziness and imbalance, with the largest percentage coming from the vestibular system.  The vestibular system is an organ located in the inner ear which relays information to the brain about balance and orientation of the body and head.  Balance is a complex interaction that requires input from our vestibular system, in addition to our vision and the sensation from our feet, muscles, and joints.  If any of these systems are not working properly, the patient will suffer loss of balance.  

Although very common, problems with equilibrium may indicate serious health risks or limit persons’ everyday living.  The great news is that diagnostic and treatment options have become more effective and can now identify 90% of all causes of dizziness.  There is now hope for many who once thought there may be no relief.  With proper diagnosis, treatment techniques, and therapeutic exercises, many older adults can return to more active lives. 

Vestibular Migraine

Migraine affects one in every 4 females and one in every 6 males and classified as a neurological disorder that is strongly hereditary by the American Academy of Neurology.

There is not a specific test that diagnoses migraine, it is usually diagnosed based on family history and pattern of symptoms.

Many types of migraine do not cause a headache at all, but instead, cause dizziness, vertigo, nausea, eye pain, and changes in vision.  Children as young as one may suffer with a form of vestibular migraine called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo of Childhood (BPPV-Childhood) causing them to stagger, have dizziness- vertigo, and vomiting.

Most people (66%) of people with a history of migraines are also prone to motion sickness.  Vertigo can be more upsetting and difficult for patients who experience migraines.

What Should I Do If I Think I Am Suffering With Migraines?

Discuss this with your physician or healthcare practitioner.  He or she may recommend medications or managing symptoms through changes in diet, lifestyle, or activities.  In some cases, your healthcare practitioner may refer you, if you are female to your ob-gyn to check the status of your hormone levels, or to a neurologist for further consultation.  

We recommend keeping a diary of your symptoms to look out for triggers e.g. food, activity, etc. 

People with migraines tend to do better if they keep to a regular sleep schedule, eating meals and stress management.  So if you are traveling away from home, be mindful that disruption of your regular schedule may be a trigger.  

 

Schedule a Balance Assessment

 

Balance issues can severely affect someone’s quality of life and lead to a range of injuries if left untreated. So it’s crucial to get the right help before a problem worsens.

To get expert assistance right away, fill out our “Schedule a Balance Test” form and one of our specialists will call you back to discuss your challenges.

How Does Vestibular Testing Work?

Our doctors will perform a full vestibular examination and audiological evaluation (if not done before appointment). A full vestibular examination will include a series of testing that evaluates the inner ear, eye movements and neurological connection to determine the cause of your vertigo or dizziness. We will walk you through the entire process and continually instruct you throughout the appointment.

How to Prepare for an Upcoming Appointment

We ask that on the day of your appointment you do the following:

  • Have a light meal to reduce any nausea that may occur during testing
  • Please do not wear eye make-up so we can properly record your eye movements and obtain accurate readings.
  • Stop taking nay anti-vertigo, sleeping or pain medication as these medications can affect results.
  • Do not drink alcoholic beverages for 48 hours before the test.

Our Expert Approach

Gold Country Hearing has partnered with the American Institute of Balance (AIB), located in Largo, FL, to provide people across our communities with the best support possible.

AIB is one of the country’s most well-known institutes that specializes in balance disorders and has been at the forefront of breakthrough diagnostic and treatment services for years.

Our expert doctors of audiology have been certified by this illustrious organization, meaning that they can provide the most advanced vestibular testing for balance issues available.

Our dizziness and balance disorder specialists are based at our Sacramento office, this means that you’ll be in the best possible hands when you come to Gold Country Hearing Sacramento.  To speak to our team directly, you can call us at 916 974-9833.

Frequently Asked Questions

#1 – How long does the vestibular test take?

The testing needed to analyze your vestibular system can last up to 2 hours.

#2 – Does the vestibular test hurt at all?

No, you should experience no pain during the test, but you may feel a little more dizzy than usual, as your doctor will need to examine the extent of your problem.

#3 – What happens after the test?

Following a vestibular test, in most cases, your doctor of audiology will provide a physician with the results, and they will be able to offer further treatment suggestions.

#4 – Can a vestibular disorder be cured?

Treatment varies based on each individual’s needs. Your doctor will determine which treatment plan is best for you.  Treatment can include physical therapy, vestibular rehabilitation, canalith repositioning maneuvers or referral to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialists