Balance Disorder Basics
Do you — or does someone you love — sometimes have to cancel a night out or
leave a birthday party early because of dizzy spells? Do loved ones dismiss it with,
“Everyone gets dizzy”? If only they could see what you feel. If only you had the
support you need and a way to show others what you’re experiencing.
That’s why Balance Awareness Week was launched.
Balance Awareness Week
Every year during the third week in September, the Vestibular Disorders
Association (VeDA) celebrates Balance Awareness Week, a week devoted to raising
awareness of the plight of the 69 million U.S. adults 40 and older who at some point
will experience balance problems.
VeDA launches social media strategies to try to take awareness viral. Patients create
personal pages to share their stories. Tool kits are developed so the message can be
taken out into neighborhoods and among policymakers.
It’s all in service to VeDA’s vision: “We envision a world where vestibular disorders
are widely understood, rapidly diagnosed, and effectively treated so patients can
restore balance and regain life.”
To help you understand vestibular disorders so you can share the word with others,
we’re here to help you understand the basics.
What’s a Vestibular Disorder?
Your vestibular system comprises the parts of your inner ear and brain that control
eye movements and balance. If any part of this system is damaged, it can lead to a
chronic vestibular disorder.
What Are the Symptoms?
There is no classical set of symptoms, and each person experiences a vestibular
disorder differently. However, below is a list of commonly reported symptoms.
• Dizziness. Feeling faint, light-headed, or unsteady.
• Vertigo. A sense of movement when there is none, characterized by feeling
like either you or the room are spinning.
• Disequilibrium. Imbalance or loss of equilibrium, often accompanied by
• Spatial disorientation. Inability to determine the body’s position in space,
characterized by the need to touch or hold on to something when standing or
walking, the need to look down to confirm where the ground is, or difficulty
walking in the dark.
• Hearing problems. Hearing loss, sound sensitivity, or tinnitus (ringing in the
• Vision problems. Difficulty tracking objects (like words on a page);
discomfort in “busy” environments such as traffic, grocery stores, or walls
with patterns; or sensitivity to lights, especially fluorescent ones.
• Cognitive issues. Trouble concentrating, short-term memory lapses,
inability to understand instructions, or an easily fatigued mind.
How Do I Get Diagnosed?
If your physician has ruled out other conditions but you experience recurring bouts
of dizziness or prolonged feelings of imbalance, visit a hearing and balance
professional — also known as an audiologist. Because vestibular disorders have
many causes, your audiologist will use different tests:
• Vestibular tests. These investigate the relationship between your eyes and
your vestibular system when your head is in motion. They involve either
goggles, sensors, or both.
• Hearing tests. These ensure proper functioning of your ear canal, inner ear,
and nervous system.
How Do I Get Treated?
Different causes will require different treatments; however, treatment can include:
• Vestibular retraining therapy (VRT). Exercises for the head, body, and
eyes that retrain your brain to coordinate signals from your vestibular
system with information from your eyes and your proprioception (your
sense of where your body parts are). This often involves home-based
• Nutrition adjustments. Some conditions respond to modifications in diet.
• Counseling. Lifestyle changes and the emotions that might accompany them
can lead to the need for support.
• Medication. Prescribed medications depend on how long you’ve been
experiencing symptoms and how well you’re responding to VRT.
• Surgery. Surgery depends on the cause of the vestibular problem and takes
You’re Not Alone
The disbelief of family and friends can make you feel alone — but you’re not. As
mentioned earlier, some 69 million people in the U.S. over 40 years old will
experience at least some sort of vestibular disorder in their lifetime. With people
like you looking for — and finding — solutions and then spreading the word to
loved ones and on social media, we can shine a light on vestibular disorders.
Contact us today if you think a balance consultation could get you or a loved one
back on sure footing.