Dizziness or loss of balance is the second most common complaint heard in doctors’ offices. National Institute of Health statistics indicate that dizziness will occur in 70% of the nation’s population at sometime in their lives. Problems with dizziness and/or equilibrium may indicate serious health risks or limit a person’s everyday living activities.
Equilibrium disorders fall into two categories. The first category is dizziness, vertigo, or motion intolerance that may occur in acute or sharp attacks lasting anywhere from a few seconds to several hours. This condition may be caused or worsened by rapid head movements, turning too quickly, walking or riding in a vehicle. The second category is a persistent sense of imbalance, unsteadiness, or what some people refer to as a loss of surefootedness.
The good news is that diagnosis and treatment options have become more effective over the past ten years. There is hope for many individuals who once thought there might be no relief.
Loss of Balance
Many people believe that loss of balance and unsteadiness are a natural result of aging. In fact, fear of falling is the number one health concern of individuals in their later years. The fear appears not to be unfounded as the National Institute of Health statistics indicate that balance-related falls account for half of the accidental deaths in the population over 65. In addition, nearly 300,000 hip fractures and $3 billion dollars in medical expenses result from balance-related falls every year.
Human equilibrium is a complex interaction that requires correct input from the inner ear (vestibular system), eyes (vision) and somatosensory (contact with the earth as perceived by our feet, muscles and joints) system. Input from each of these three systems must be accurately transmitted to our central nervous system. Then the cerebellum, which is the motor control portion of the brain, must execute the correct movement of our musculoskeletal system so that we maintain our center of gravity. If any one or several components of this complicated system do not work properly, we will experience impaired balance and possibly dizziness.
The natural aging process may affect any one or all of these senses as well as the central nervous system’s ability to interpret and react quickly to them. It is very common to hear from someone who has fallen to say that they saw the curb or step, but just were not able to react fast enough or to keep their balance.
One of the most important tests available to diagnose balance and dizziness related disorders is the VNG (Videonystagmogram) test. Depending on the diagnosis, treatment may include Repositioning Therapy. Both the VNG testing and Repositioning Therapy are performed in our office.
With proper diagnosis and therapeutic exercises, called Balance Retraining, many older adults are able to return to a more active lifestyle.
Did you know?
- Vertigo, dizziness or imbalance will affect 90 million Americans sometime during their lifetime.
- Each year, over 9 million people consult with their doctors with complaints of dizziness, the number one malady for those over 70.
- Balance related falls account for more than one-half of the accidental deaths in the elderly.
- Balance related falls cause over 300,000 hip fractures a year in individuals over 65 years of age.
- Some forms of inner ear disorders, such as Meniere’s Disease, benign positional vertigo, perilymph fistula, and endolymphatic hydrops, have symptoms that are virtually indistinguishable to most people. Because imbalance and vertigo can affect a person’s ability to stand and walk, to see clearly, to read, to watch television, to make decisions, and to think clearly, these conditions can be misdiagnosed as other conditions including multiple sclerosis and clinical depression.
- Children with treatable vestibular disorders are sometimes incorrectly diagnosed as learning disabled, dyslexic, or psychologically disturbed.
- Blows to the head and whiplash are frequent causes of dizziness.
- Ear infections, such as otitis media, can also lead to vestibular disorders.
Amherst Audiological Services is proud to partner with The American Institute of Balance™ in the certification of professionals, development of clinical protocols and continuing education. The Institute is nationally and internationally known for its expertise in testing and rehabilitation, helping thousands of patients who were told “learn to live with it” to return to normal lives. The Institute’s evaluation protocols and therapy programs are used by physicians, audiologists, therapists, clinics, and hospitals worldwide.
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, our audiologists on staff can do some initial testing to determine whether the symptoms you are experiencing are related to a problem with the inner ear and if necessary refer you to an appropriate specialist.
If you are experiencing dizziness or lightheadedness, please contact us.