Dizziness, a blanket term used to describe any feeling of spinning and/or instability, is one of the leading health complaints in the United States and affects an estimated nine million people annually.

Dizziness & Vertigo

For those over the age of 70, it’s the top reason for a visit to the doctor’s office.

What Symptoms Are Associated with Dizziness?

Patients who experience dizziness report a variety of symptoms depending on the exact nature of their balance disorder. These include:
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Unsteadiness
  • Weakness
  • Vertigo (the sensation of movement in your surroundings)
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Blurred vision

Dizziness & Vertigo

What is Vertigo?

man suffering from vestibular disorder

Vertigo is a symptom of dizziness characterized by the sensation that you or the environment around is moving or spinning. What Are the Types of Vertigo?

Peripheral vertigo is associated with disorders of the inner ear. The vestibular system sends signals to the brain about the position of the head in space, which enables us to keep our balance and maintain equilibrium. When these signals are disrupted, or imbalanced from ear to ear, vertigo can result.

Central vertigo occurs when there is a disruption of the interaction in the brain between the visual and balance systems. A common cause of central vertigo is a migraine headache.

dr palpating neck

How Are Dizziness and Vertigo Treated?

Treatment for dizziness is determined by the cause. Using a thorough case history and diagnostic testing, your physician and our audiologists will try to identify the cause of dizziness so appropriate treatment can be initiated. Treatment for vertigo can include medications (antihistamines, sedatives, antibiotics, steroids), physical or occupational therapy, repositioning exercises, and lifestyle modifications such as dietary changes and elimination of alcohol and nicotine. In rare instances there may be a surgical treatment for vertigo.

Dizziness & Vertigo

What Are the Causes of Dizziness?

Potential causes of dizziness are vast and can include inner ear disorders, low blood pressure, anemia, dehydration, heat-related disorders, endocrine system disorders (e.g., diabetes, thyroid disease), heart conditions, high blood pressure, viral and bacterial infection, head trauma, hyperventilation, neurological disorders and certain medications. Several inner ear disorders that are commonly associated with dizziness and/or vertigo include the following:


Meniere’s disease

Superior Semi-Circular Canal Dehiscence Syndrome (SSCD)

Vestibular Neuritis and Labrynthitis

Vestibular Migraines

Dizziness and Balance Disorders

Benign Paraproxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

Benign paraproxysmal positional vertigo, commonly referred to as BPPV, is a vestibular disorder that causes vertigo. BPPV is caused when calcium carbonate crystals in the inner ear become dislodged from the otolithic membrane and settle in one of the semicircular canals. Subsequently, any change in the position of the head can cause the tiny crystals to shift, triggering dizziness. Displacement of the calcium carbonate crystals can occur from aging, infection, head trauma, labyrinthine disease or other unknown causes. BPPV is the most common cause of dizziness in individuals over the age of 65. Once the crystals are settled in a semicircular canal, specific positions of the head (often times, turning over in bed, looking up/down) can cause the otoliths to send a false signal to the brain, resulting in brief, but intense periods of dizziness or vertigo.

BPPV is treated following an assessment by an audiologist that determines the specific location of the displaced crystals. Once identified, the audiologist can perform the appropriate maneuver to move the crystals out of the semicircular canal. Learn more about BPPV.

Meniere’s Disease

Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder that can affect hearing and balance. Individuals often experience recurring episodes of dizziness, tinnitus, and hearing loss. Meniere’s disease most commonly affects only one ear and is the result of an increase in volume and pressure of the fluid (endolymph) of the inner ear. Learn more about Meniere’s Disease.

Vestibular Migraine

Contrary to what one might think, vestibular migraines don’t always cause headaches. The primary symptom of a vestibular migraine is intermittent dizziness.

Vestibular refers to the inner ear, which controls hearing and balance. Dizziness associated with a vestibular migraine, lasts more than a few minutes and can be accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to sound, movement and light. Feeling disoriented is also common with vestibular migraine. Like traditional migraines, vestibular migraines can affect people of all ages. However, they are more common in women than men and most often begin around 40 years of age. Learn more about Vestibular Migraines.

Vestibular Neuritis and Labyrinthitis

Both vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis are the result of inflammation of the vestibular nerve. Dizziness is caused as the affected vestibular nerve does not provide input to the brain that is equal to that from the vestibular nerve on the unaffected side. The result is vertigo and possibly nausea. When one has labyrinthitis, symptoms include sudden hearing loss as well. Initial symptoms often present as a sudden onset of severe vertigo and/or hearing loss accompanied by nausea and vomiting that can last hours or days. Learn more about Vestibular Neuritis and Labyrinthitis.
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