Balance Disorders

We do not realize how important our balance is until we experience disruptions in our daily routines. An unhealthy balance system can make everyday tasks such as walking or unloading the dishwasher extremely difficult or even impossible. Balance disorders can cause feelings of dizziness, lightheadedness, vertigo, and can lead to serious falls.

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How a Healthy Balance System Works

The formal name for our balance system is called the vestibular system. This system uses input from our bodies to help our brain recognize, understand and locate where we are in a space. Surprisingly, the most crucial component of the vestibular system is located within our inner ear.

Inside our ear there are three semicircular canals and two otolith organs called the utricle and saccule. These canals and organs are filled with a special fluid and are the central “heartbeat” of the vestibular system.


This fluid in our inner ear sends information to our brain, which allows us to process and understand where, when, and how fast we move. Each of the semicircular canals and the otolith organs are responsible for a specific type of movement.

One semicircular canal responds to our head tilting upward and downward. Another responds to our head tilting right or left. The third responds to our head turning sideways. Our otolith organs serve similar functions and send information to the brain about our acceleration or deceleration.

When we move in these directions, the fluid within the semicircular canals moves with us. Tiny hair-like cells inside the canals sense the movement of the liquid and sends this information to the brain. The brain then tells the appropriate body parts, such as the eyes, muscles, and joints, to react.

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Balance Disorders


What is a balance disorder?

Not every incident of dizziness or vertigo is an indicator of a balance disorder. We all experience dizzy spells every so often. Dizzy spells usually do not interfere in our daily routines and they typically subside in a matter of seconds. Dizziness is considered a balance disorder when it occurs often, is intense, or interferes with your ability to go about your daily activities. A balance disorder can cause vertigo (a feeling that the room is spinning), dizziness, lightheadedness, and unsteadiness. These symptoms can occur when you are moving, standing, sitting, or lying down.

Types of balance disorders

There are many types of balance disorders. There are also multiple underlying health concerns that could cause feelings of unsteadiness or dizziness. Hearing Aid and Balance Clinic uses extensive balance assessments will determine what type of balance disorder you are experiencing.

Some of the most common balance disorders include:

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV is an extremely common type of balance disorder. With BPPV, you may experience brief and very intense feelings of vertigo, that are triggered or made worse when changing your head position. For some people, BPPV episodes feel extreme and cause cause severe dizziness,, while others feel that the room is spinning or tumbling. BPPV can cause you to lose their balance and stumble from a bed or a chair. BPPV can be triggered by moving your head to one side, rolling over in bed, or bending your head to look under something.

While it can feel very scary, BPPV is benign. BPPV occurs when little “ear crystals” come loose from your inner ear. The way these crystals move sends information to your brain about where you are in space. When these crystals move out of place, they send incorrect information to your brain, which causes you to experience vertigo.

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