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Balance and Vestibular Disorders

​​​​When considering balance issues, the inner ear is usually the last culprit on the list. But the inner ear and all surrounding tissue play a critical role in maintaining equilibrium and wellness in day-to-day life. The vestibulocochlear nerve sends signals to the brain that control hearing and help with balance, and any damage can be harmful.

While the ears play a critical role, other organs such as the eyes, joints and muscles work together to keep you steady and upright. When one stops working correctly, the entire body may suffer from a balance disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Balance Disorders

The most common signs of a balance disorder include:

  • Vertigo (a sense of motion or spinning)
  • Presyncope (feeling of faintness or lightheadedness)
  • Disequilibrium (loss of balance)
  • Dizziness

These symptoms may cause other symptoms to manifest as well, such as:

  • Involuntary eye movements or twitches
  • Discomfort or difficulty looking at sun glare or lights (particularly fluorescent, flashing or moving lights)
  • Discomfort in situations with busy visuals, such as patterns, crowds, heavy traffic or jam-packed areas like malls
  • Depth perception disruptions that affect hand-eye coordination or eye-foot coordination

Impact of Balance Disorders

The signs and symptoms can lead to drastic impacts daily life as well. If your child is struggling with a balance disorder, he or she may also suffer with:

  • Frequent headaches or migraines
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Motion sickness
  • Changes in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Fear, anxiety, panic
  • Depression

Suffering from a balance or vestibular disorder can create school troubles for your child as well, including difficulties with:

  • Paying attention
  • Concentrating
  • Remembering things
  • Hearing the teacher
  • Following directions
  • Focusing eyes on the board or books
  • Competing well in PE or athletics

Causes of Balance Disorders

Not all balance disorders have a specific cause, but research has led to the following being associated with vestibular issues:

  • Ear, head or neck injuries
  • Ototoxicity (when certain medications damage the inner ear)
  • Migraines
  • Hearing loss
  • Chronic middle ear infections (otitis media)
  • Other infections (cold, flu, meningitis, measles, mumps or rubella)
  • Seizure disorders​
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