The inner ear has several important jobs. In addition to hearing, the inner ear’s vestibular system is your primary organ of balance.
Problems with this system can cause dizziness and imbalance. Fortunately, these problems can often be identified and treated. Hearing & Balance Specialists of Kansas City is one of the few specialty clinics in Kansas City, MO that has a specific focus on these disorders.
Dizziness can be very unsettling and may include any number of sensations including spinning (vertigo), blurred vision with head movement, disorientation, and feeling faint. Unfortunately, dizziness is the most common complaint heard in doctors’ offices. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), dizziness will occur in up to 70% of individuals at some point in their lives. There are a large number of conditions that can cause dizziness, including:
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
BPPV is the most common cause of dizziness. In fact, 50% of people will experience BPPV at some point. BPPV is caused by a change in the inner ear’s perception of gravity, which leads to a spinning sensation when changing position. These episodes of spinning are very brief, but individuals may also notice a general sense of lightheadedness or imbalance. BPPV is one of the most easily treated vestibular disorders. This condition is one of Dr. Bittel’s specialties and he has personally treated more than 3,000 patients with BPPV.
This condition is characterized by an intense attack of vertigo that lasts for hours to days. Vestibular neuritis is caused by a viral infection of the nerve leading to the vestibular system (an inner ear infection). Unfortunately, this condition can cause permanent inner ear damage, which can cause lasting symptoms of dizziness and imbalance. This condition and the damage it leaves behind can be identified through comprehensive testing. With an accurate diagnosis, lingering symptoms can be resolved.
Labyrinthitis is caused by a viral or bacterial infection of the inner ear itself; this would also be considered an inner ear infection. The spinning dizziness that accompanies this condition is identical to that observed with vestibular neuritis (persists for hours to days). Interestingly, labyrinthitis is characterized by hearing loss on the side with damage.
This condition causes fluctuating hearing, vertigo attacks lasting from approximately 30 minutes to 24 hours, tinnitus on the affected side, and a sensation of fullness in the ear. The inner ear is comprised of two distinct fluids that are separated by a delicate membrane; these fluids should not mix. Meniere’s disease is caused by too much inner ear fluid, which can cause a rupture of the inner ear’s membranes and a mixing of the fluid. This condition usually happens in attacks over time, and it can be progressive. There are effective management strategies that can be utilized to treat this condition.
Migraines are caused by a disruption in blood flow and the way neurons are firing in the brain. Although typically characterized by intense headache, sensitivity to light and sound, and nausea, migraines can also cause dizziness and vertigo. Migraines are also highly associated with inner ear disorders. If an accurate diagnosis is made, this condition is often very treatable.
Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths in the elderly. Unfortunately, 1 in 3 people over the age of 70 will fall each year. Often a fall will result in serious injury including head trauma, a broken hip, etc. Feeling off balance and having a fear of falling can also cause an individual to avoid their regular activities and become socially isolated. If you have fallen or have a fear of falling, you should highly consider a formal evaluation with a specialist in equilibrium disorders. Falls can often be prevented once a cause is accurately identified.
Hearing & Balance Specialists of Kansas City provides expert evaluation and treatment of complex balance disorders, which often originate from the vestibular system in the inner ear. Please contact us to schedule an appointment.