Over 30 million Americans suffer from some form of balance disorder that’s severe enough to note. Countless millions more likely suffer from simple episodes of dizziness that pass in seconds and are soon forgotten.

Balance disorders are simply defined as conditions that cause feelings of dizziness or that make you unsteady on your feet. It’s a broad definition that could mean something slightly different to each individual. Chances are, if your head spins for a moment when you get up quickly, you won’t consider the condition a disorder.

Yet, for those who suffer more severe responses, it can be the reason behind harmful falls and the inability to safely drive, and it may be the cause behind confusion, disorientation, and mental fog. Treating balance disorders is often a multidisciplinary collaboration.

When balance disorders start to affect your day, an audiologist is often the first care provider you see, and in Reston, Virginia, you should call Hearing & Balance Services of Reston. Virtually every balance disorder evaluation involves the ears, even when it’s to assure your vestibular system is working correctly. Our team can help you with many of the fundamental tests required.

Vestibular balance

Minor feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness might be the most common symptoms of balance disorder, but as long as they’re short in duration and not common, there’s usually nothing to worry about. Your body’s vestibular system balances information from your ears, eyes, and muscles to create a sense of where you are in space, like knowing the difference between up and down, being in motion, and more.

Watching a 3D movie or being on an amusement park ride can create moments of disagreement. Your eyes may report something to the brain that doesn’t agree with what your ears report, or what your muscles sense. This lack of agreement creates dizziness, vertigo, and nausea. It’s often described as motion sickness.

Balance disorders can also originate from medical conditions, and in virtually all cases, there’s a similar disruption in the components of the vestibular system. Problems with balance organs in the ears are usually the cause of balance disorders, but it’s not always the case.

These organs can work just fine, but the nerve connections to the brain may introduce distortions, or the brain itself could misinterpret the information. The same is true for ocular information and muscle control.

The importance of the ears

The structures in the ears that create positional information for the brain are the semicircular canals. These loops, three in each ear, are arranged at about right angles to each other. They’re filled with fluid, and their sides are lined with cilia, tiny hairs that detect the motion of the fluid.

These hairs attach to nerves and create the electrical signals that supply your brain with data, like biological gyroscopes. They measure movements of your head for your brain to interpret.

Two other structures called the utricle and saccule create information in much the same way, but in respect to gravity. In addition to fluid and cilia, these structures include tiny grains of calcium carbonate, which gravity pulls on. Some minor balance disorders result from these grains entering the semicircular canals.

No matter what the cause of your balance disorder, you need to have the function of your ears evaluated. Any time balance or dizziness becomes an issue, contact Hearing & Balance Services of Reston to arrange an ear exam. Schedule your appointment now, before balance disorders take over your life.