You may be wondering, how do your ears affect your balance? Vertigo, or the sudden sensation of spinning, can be a surprising and unsettling experience. Vertigo is sometimes described as dizziness, although the two terms actually have different meanings. Vertigo can cause you to feel as if your environment is moving, turning upside down, spinning, or as if you yourself are moving even if you are not. It can cause you to feel faint, lose your balance, and possibly make you nauseated—or dizzy. The word “dizzy” refers to those feelings of faintness and imbalance.
What Causes Vertigo
A number of things can lead to vertigo. You may be surprised to find out that your inner ear has a great deal to do with balance. The ear is a complex organ that does much more than you might think. While generally we think of ears as tools only for hearing, deep inside the ear there are structures that monitor movement, gravity, and balance. If these structures are disturbed, whether by a head injury, fluid in the ear from an inner ear infection, or other reasons, it may also affect your sensations of movement and balance. Most cases of vertigo are benign; however, if you are experiencing any episodes of vertigo or dizziness, it is always best to seek medical advice.
Determining the Cause
Once you and your doctor have ruled out any general medical disorder that could be causing your dizziness, you may want to consult with an ear, nose, and throat physician. A qualified specialist will ask you questions about your condition and perform an examination. He or she may ask you to tilt your head to see if the vertigo is reproducible. They will look at the movement of your eyes, and may perform special tests to help detect inner ear conditions. Specialized tests such as MRIs may also be ordered.
Restoring the Balance
If your ear, nose, and throat specialist determines that those structures inside your ear are indeed causing your vertigo, because of either inflammation, infection, or the above mentioned displacement, there are often some simple treatments available. If you are suffering from an ear infection, you may be prescribed a round of antibiotics. If your symptoms are particularly troublesome, the physician may prescribe a medication to treat the vertigo itself until the infection resolves. Vestibular rehabilitation may also be an option. One simple procedure that a trained otolaryngologist may perform involves moving the head into different positions for short periods of time. This is called canalith repositioning and is intended to allow the displaced particles to move out of the problem area.
Things to Think About
Sometimes vertigo may happen once and go away. Sometimes it may hang around and be more of an issue. Rarely, it may require surgical intervention. If you are experiencing dizziness or vertigo, it is important to speak to your doctor to rule out causes that could be more serious. Take precautions when you are going up and down stairs, walking at night, or driving until you have discussed this condition with your ENT.