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Balance Disorders

LobbyCheckinBalance disorders that cause dizziness are categorized as peripheral (coming from the semicircular canals), central (coming from the brain or related pathways) or systemic (resulting from problems in the nerves or organs outside of the head, such as anemia, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis or cataracts and other eye problems).

Common Causes of Dizziness or Unsteadiness Include:

Common Conditions

Meniere’s Disease (also known as Endolymphatic Hydrops)

Classic symptoms of Meniere’s Disease include severe bouts of vertigo, tinnitus (usually described as “roaring”), fluctuating hearing loss and aural fullness (a feeling of pressure in the ears). Meniere’s Disease generally affects one ear but can occur in both ears. It is common to see the hearing loss start in the low pitches and gradually worsen to affect all of the frequencies tested during a routine audiogram. Hearing loss often fluctuates but eventually worsens to some degree of permanent hearing loss. The symptoms of Meniere’s are caused by changes in the volume of endolymph. What is thought to happen is that an over-abundance of endolymph “backs up” into the semicircular canals causing the canals to swell resulting in dysfunction.

Benign Positional Paroxysmal Vertigo (BPPV)

Individuals with BPPV experience dizziness and sometimes nausea after positional changes (i.e. rolling over, getting out of bed or tipping the head back). This is due to small crystals consisting of calcium carbonate, normally present within the inner ear, becoming displaced. This usually occurs due to head injury, infection or disorders of the inner ear. The most common cause of BPPV in the elderly population is degeneration of the vestibular system, while in the younger population it is commonly caused by trauma to the head. Symptoms are often intermittent and may cease for a period of time but may recur some time later. Medications such as Meclizine and Antivert will not cure the condition, but may provide temporary relief. The best treatment for this type of dizziness involves physical maneuvers and exercises that reposition the crystals back to their normal location. A cervical collar (soft neck brace) is generally worn for 48 hours after maneuvers are performed. These repositioning maneuvers are performed by a specially trained medical professional.

Vestibular Neuronitis

Usually involves severe dizziness but is not accompanied by hearing loss. This is thought to result from a viral infection of the vestibular nerve which caused it to be inflamed and/or irritated.

Acoustic Neuroma

This is a benign (non-cancerous), slow-growing tumor that develops along the hearing nerve and sometimes the vestibular nerve. The most common sign of an acoustic neuroma is hearing loss, however, dizziness can result when pressure on the nerve causes conflicting signals to be sent to the brain regarding the body’s position and movement.


This is a collection of skin cells from the eardrum that form a growth in the middle ear. This is generally considered to be the result of repeated ear infections. If a cholesteatoma is not treated it can continue to grow and invade surrounding areas and structures. Depending on the direction of the growth, it can sometimes cause damage to the vestibular organs, causing dizziness and imbalance.

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