You may not give your ability to stand much thought until you have problems with dizziness and vertigo. Occasional dizziness isn’t unusual, but when it’s a persistent condition, the regular tasks of life can be difficult, and you may be in danger of injuries from falling. When this happens more than you’re comfortable with, you have a balance disorder.
The organs of balance are located in your ears, one of the reasons why dizziness is a symptom of ear infections. Because of that anatomy, your journey for treatment of balance disorder may start at an audiologist like Hearing & Balance Services of Reston. Our team provide a full-service audiology practice, providing some of the specialized testing that leads to balance disorder diagnosis and treatment.
The balance organs of the ear are only part of your body’s vestibular system, which also involves nerve pathways and brain processing. Since a problem in any of these areas can be responsible for balance disorders, you may need to see other medical specialists to resolve your balance issues.
The vestibular system
Normal balance results from the automatic interaction between many body systems. All movement involves the bones, joints, and muscles of your musculoskeletal system, but that system depends on signals received from the brain through nerves. Your vision establishes clues about your body’s orientation. Even your heart and blood vessels have an effect on your balance.
However, much of the raw data upon which your brain depends originates from the inner ear, so frequently, balance issues also start with the inner ear. That’s why testing and treatment for balance disorders usually starts with a visit to the audiologist. They can assess the health of many aspects of your ears, identifying or ruling out problems with the vestibular system that originate there.
Other medical specialties
With ear health confirmed, you may need to follow up with other specialists if your balance disorder continues. Some problems with the inner ear may also require specialist care, such as a neurosurgeon if your inner ear function needs repair. Surgery may be the answer if your balance disorder stems from Meniere’s disease or acoustic neuroma.
A neurologist may become part of your team if ear function is fine. Special diagnostic imaging of nerve and brain tissue may be necessary to diagnose problems here. Neurologists also treat problems with peripheral nerves — those in your arms and legs — and neurological conditions like stroke or epilepsy.
You may see an otolaryngologist if the structure of your head might be influencing the function of your ears, since the nose, sinuses, and breathing airways are all closely interconnected.
Cardiologists diagnose issues with blood flow that might affect the inner ear or other parts of the vestibular system, and a pharmacist might help rule out medications that could be affecting your balance. If your condition requires rehabilitation exercises, a physical therapist may also be part of your team.
Your sense of balance is the result of a complex system and process, so it follows that testing and treatment of difficult cases can be equally complex. To start your search for the end of your balance disorder, contact Hearing & Balance Services of Reston.