Precision Balance Testing and Treatment Solutions

Are you a little less confident than you used to be when it comes to navigating a flight of stairs or even just a few steps up onto the porch? Do you become dizzy and off-balanced when you stand up from a chair?

More than 90 million Americans will experience vertigo, dizziness, and balance problems in their lifetime, and nine million individuals seek help from a doctor of audiology each year for these and similar conditions.

Dizziness and vertigo are more serious than the discomfort and inconvenience they cause. Balance-related falls are responsible for more than half of the accidental deaths in the elderly population and in excess of 300,000 hip fractures annually for individuals over the age of 65.

Your balance and the health of your ears are closely related.

That’s why the balance doctors at North Houston Hearing Solutions make balance testing and balance treatment solutions available to our community.

If you’re experiencing dizziness or vertigo or feeling unsteady on your feet, we have the training, expertise, and state-of-the-art technology to diagnose your condition and provide personalized solutions to address it.

How Does Your Balance Relate to Your Ears?

The focus of doctors of audiology is on any and all conditions related to the ears. Your ears play a major role in helping you maintain your balance.

Being steady on your feet involves the coordination of three of your body’s systems:

  • Your vision, which delivers visual cues about your surroundings and the path ahead
  • Your vestibular system, which involves the inner ear
  • Your proprioceptive system, which provides sensory input from your muscles and joints

When there is a disturbance, malfunction, or discoordination among these systems, you could experience dizziness, vertigo, and a loss of balance.

Your Vestibular System

The vestibular system, located in the inner ear, detects movement and changes to the positioning of your head. If you’re familiar with a carpenter’s level, you’ll understand how the process works.

When your vestibular system becomes damaged, you may begin to experience dizziness, vertigo, nausea, and imbalance.

Dizziness and balance challenges are not restricted to the elderly. They can affect people of any age due to disease, syndromes, toxins, or trauma as well as the same deterioration of the hair cells that leads to permanent sensorineural hearing loss.

Answers to Some Common Questions About Dizziness and Balance Disorders

Q. What are the common signs of balance issues?

A. The symptoms of balance disorders can be placed in two classifications:

Motion Intolerance: When rapid head movements or turning too quickly leads to feelings of dizziness, vertigo, and nausea, which may come and go quickly or continue for several hours at a time.

Imbalance or Unsteadiness: Imbalance or unsteadiness related to any kind of upright movement.

Q. How does a balance test help diagnose the underlying cause of my balance issues?

A. Balance testing helps identify which of the three systems related to balance is not working properly or identifies discoordination issues between these systems.

Q. How long does a balance assessment test take?

A. In most cases, a balance assessment can be completed within an hour, unless additional time is needed for further testing.

Q. Are balance tests covered by insurance?

A. Many private health insurance companies, including Medicare, Medicaid, and VA, cover all or portions of balance testing.

Q. Are there exercises for improving balance?

A. Yes. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) is the most common form of exercise used to improve balance. VRT involves a series of exercises designed to decrease your feelings of dizziness and vertigo as well as protect you against balance-related falls.

In some cases it is necessary to make adjustments to your diet, lifestyle, and various activities to prevent or limit the number of balance disorder episodes and/or their intensity.

What Are the Main Causes of Balance Disorders?

As mentioned earlier, balance disorders involve disruptions or discoordination between any of the three systems associated with balance: visual system, vestibular system, and proprioceptive system.

Causes related to the vestibular system include:

Labyrinthitis

Involves swelling and irritation in the inner ear, often caused by a cold or flu.

Meniere's Disease

Caused by an excessive buildup of fluid in the vestibular system and often produces tinnitus as well.

Vestibular Neuritis

Involves inflammation of the vestibular nerve that carries the nerve signals from the inner ear to your brain; usually caused by a viral infection.

Perilymph Fistula

Occurs when fluid in the inner ear leaks into the middle ear. It is often associated with head injuries, ear surgeries, and long-term ear infections.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

The most common cause, occurs when calcium carbonate breaks off from the utricle and migrates into one of the semicircular canals, disrupting the normal movement of fluid and sending false signals to the brain.

Motion Sickness or Mal de Débarquement Syndrome (MdDS)

An over-sensitivity to motion that leaves you feeling like you are rocking, swaying, or continuing to move after riding in a car, boat, or plane or even after exercising on a treadmill.

Vestibular Migraines

Instead of an intense headache, the primary symptoms of vestibular migraines are dizziness, vertigo, nausea, eye pain, changes to vision, and balance disorders.

Treatment Options for Balance Disorders

Balance disorder treatments are specific to the underlying cause.

Disorders like labyrinthitis, vestibular neuritis, and perilymph fistulas are dealt with using antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications.

The treatment for Meniere’s disease may include motion sickness and anti-nausea medications, diuretics to reduce fluids, and/or betahistine, designed to improve blood flow to the ear.

BPPV-related balance disorders are treated using a specific form of physical therapy called canalith repositioning. Each treatment takes only minutes and is successful in treating 95 percent of patients with no more than three to four treatments.

VRT, or vestibular rehabilitation therapy, is the most common form of balance therapy used to treat MdDS or motion sickness. This therapy involves a progressive program of exercises designed to decrease the symptoms of vertigo, dizziness, and visual issues to protect patients against falls related to imbalance.

Vestibular rehabilitation therapy is also used for all forms of dizziness, vertigo, and balance issues to help individuals cope with each episode.

Vestibular migraines are often treated using beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin or serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs or SNRIs), and topiramate. In addition, changes to your diet, lifestyle, and activities may also help prevent or limit the number or intensity of vestibular migraine episodes.

What Should I Expect During a Balance Assessment?

Some people may avoid balance testing because they are unsure of what takes place. To help put your mind at ease, here is what you can expect during your balance assessment.

There are some actions you need to take in preparation for your balance test in order to get the most accurate result from testing, such as:

  • Avoid drinking alcohol during the 24 hours immediately before your balance test
  • Refrain from wearing mascara, eyeliner, or facial lotion when you come to the clinic
  • Try to arrive 15 minutes before your appointment time so you can relax and settle yourself before testing begins

Your balance assessment will include a series of advanced technology tests using state-of-the-art equipment. Your balance doctor might not use all of them, but here is a quick rundown of various tests available and a brief description of what they are and what they measure.

Electronystagmography (ENG)

Electronystagmography (ENG) tests use electrodes and videonystagmography (VNG) tests use small cameras to record eye movements as you respond to various stimuli.

Vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (VEMP)

Vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (VEMP) tests are used to diagnose vestibular lesions that contribute to balance disorders. This test involves attaching sensor pads to your neck, your forehead, and under your eyes to measure each minute muscle contraction as you react to sounds.

Rotary chair testing

Rotary chair testing involves seating you in a motorized chair that swivels from side to side and rotates at a controlled rate. It is designed to measure the severity of your dizziness and the amount of dizziness caused by the viewing of moving stripes during rotation.

Computerized Dynamic Posturography

Computerized Dynamic Posturography testing is designed to evaluate how well your inner ears, eyes, and muscles and joints coordinate to help maintain your balance. This test involves standing you on a force-sensing surface with the support of a harness while being subjected to a movable visual surround.

vHIT testing

vHIT testing measures your vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR), which helps you maintain the focus of your visual field during head rotations. The absence of VOR or limited reactions help to pinpoint the cause of your balance disorder.

In some cases it is necessary to make adjustments to your diet, lifestyle, and various activities to prevent or limit the number of balance disorder episodes and/or their intensity.

Join Our Delighted Patients

Schedule a Balance Assessment

Balance disorders can severely limit your active and independent lifestyle and lead to critical, fall-related injuries if left untreated.

You don’t have to live with feeling unsteady on your feet nor feelings of dizziness and vertigo in North Houston, because North Houston Hearing Solutions makes balance testing and treatment available to Spring, TX, and nearby communities.

Contact us by submitting the adjacent form and a member of our team will call you back to answer questions and/or help you schedule a balance assessment.

Don’t want to wait? Call us at: 281-444-9800

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