When most people think of balance and dizziness, they usually think of something that affects the elderly. However, this is not always the case. Often, inner ear problems can cause balance issues and dizziness in people of all ages.
Inner Ear Problems: Causes of Balance Issues and Dizziness
The inner ear is a complex system of both hearing and balance. The inner ear consists of the cochlea, used for hearing, and the vestibular system, responsible for balance. The vestibular system consists of three semicircular canals perpendicular to each other as well as the utricle and saccule, responsible for detecting linear acceleration and gravity.
The semicircular canals are filled with fluid (endolymph) and have hair cells with cilia that project into the fluid. The movement of the fluid stimulates the hair cells, which in turn send signals to the brain that help with balance as well as spatial orientation. The utricle and saccule are filled with fluid (endolymph) and have hair cells with cilia that project into the fluid. These hair cells detect gravity and linear acceleration and send signals to the brain about these movements.
5 Most Common Inner Ear Problems That Can Cause Loss of Balance and Dizziness
Many different inner ear problems can cause balance issues and dizziness. Below are the five most common:
1. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
This is the most common type of vertigo. Tiny calcium crystals (otoconia) that become dislodged from their normal location in the utricle and fall into one or more semicircular canals cause BPPV. The movement of the crystals in the canal(s) stimulates the hair cells, sending false signals to the brain about movement. This can cause a spinning sensation (vertigo) and/or loss of balance. BPPV is often caused by head trauma or viral infections but can also occur spontaneously.
This is an inner ear problem caused by inflammation of the labyrinth (the system of fluid-filled channels in the inner ear). Viral infections, bacterial infections, as well as head trauma can cause this problem. It can also occur spontaneously. Symptoms of labyrinthitis include vertigo, loss of balance, nausea, and vomiting.
3. Meniere’s Disease
An abnormal buildup of fluid in the labyrinth causes this chronic inner ear problem. Meniere’s disease can cause vertigo, stroke, loss of balance, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), as well as hearing loss.
4. Vestibular Neuritis
The inflammation of the vestibular nerve can cause this inner ear problem. The vestibular nerve carries signals from the labyrinth to the brain. Viral infections can cause vestibular neuritis, but they can also occur spontaneously. Symptoms of vestibular neuritis include vertigo and loss of balance.
5. Perilymph Fistula
A tear in the thin membrane that separates the middle ear from the inner ear causes this problem. Perilymph fistula can be caused by head trauma, but it can also occur spontaneously. Symptoms of perilymph fistula include vertigo, hearing loss, as well as tinnitus.
Possible Treatment Options
There are many different treatment options for inner ear problems that cause balance issues and dizziness. Some of these include:
-Medications: In fact, many different types of medications can treat inner ear problems. These include antihistamines, anticholinergics, and beta blockers.
-Vestibular rehabilitation: This type of physical therapy can help improve balance and reduce dizziness.
-Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat an inner ear problem.
There are also many myths surrounding inner ear problems and their treatment. Some of these myths include:
-You need to rest when you have an inner ear problem: This is not true. In fact, experts often recommend that you stay active when you have an inner ear problem.
-You should not take medications for inner ear problems: This is also not true. In fact, many different types of medications can treat inner ear problems.
-Inner ear problems will go away on their own: This is not always the case. In some cases, inner ear problems can become chronic.
If you think you may have an inner ear problem, it is important to see a doctor to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment. Inner ear problems can cause serious balance issues and dizziness, but they are often treatable.