All About Vestibular Disorders

What kind of disorder do 109 million Americans experience that is often underdiagnosed and undertreated? A vestibular disorder. Balance disorders are on our minds all the time, but especially during Balance Awareness Week, celebrated September 16–18 this year. The Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA) helps raise awareness about balance disorders, and we’re doing our part to help!

Our goal is to engage more people than ever to take action and to help VEDA accomplish its chief goal: to reduce the time it takes to diagnose a vestibular disorder.

Here’s what you can do to help get this movement on its feet: learn.

Though dizziness can be a symptom of many different diseases and disorders, repeated dizzy spells are commonly associated with vertigo, which occurs when a small mineral fragment detaches itself inside the cochlea and moves freely throughout the fluids of the inner ear. Because the ear is so important to vestibular function, a disruption of the fluids in the inner ear can wildly throw off balance. It’s important to differentiate frequent episodes of vertigo that can last from a few seconds to a few days from a fleeting dizziness like a head rush — and a proper diagnosis can help with that.

Disequilibrium is a common feeling for those with a vestibular disorder, and it’s considered an unsteadiness and imbalance that is often accompanied by spatial disorientation. Individuals who suffer from vestibular disorders often feel this way, and they may frequently stumble and have difficulty walking a straight line or turning a corner.

Signs of Vestibular Disorders:

  • Visual-spatial problems
  • Excessive clumsiness
  • Poor hand-eye and eye-foot coordination
  • Trouble moving in the dark
  • Difficulty reading or concentrating

And because the ear is involved with balance, hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) are also commonly associated with balance disorders.

About one-third of those with a vestibular disorder have trouble performing basic activities like bathing, dressing, and eating. Children in particular can face motor-development impairment and other learning challenges at school at a time when they’re still developing mentally and physically. A child with a vestibular disorder will typically grow up to lead a normal life, but it requires work on the part of both the parent and the child to discover new ways to learn and avoid discomfort caused by the disorder.

If you or someone you know would like to help somehow, you can:

  • Be active in promoting Balance Awareness Week on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter
  • Contact your local hearing and balance clinic (that’s us!) to find out how you can get involved

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