Ear Nose and Throat

If you feel unsteady or dizzy, as if you are moving, spinning, or floating, even though you are standing still or lying down, you may have a balance disorder.

Diagnosis of a balance disorder

Diagnosis of a balance disorder is difficult. Our sense of balance is primarily controlled by a maze-like structure in our inner ear. There are many potential causes of balance issues—including medical conditions and medications.

To help evaluate a balance problem, your doctor may suggest you see a Riverside otolaryngologist, a physician and surgeon who specializes in the ear, nose, and throat. Your otolaryngologist may request tests including:

  • A hearing examination
  • An electronystagmogram. Your doctor will measure your eye movements and the muscles that control them.
  • Imaging studies of your head and brain, such as a CT scan or MRI.
  • A posturography. You'll stand on a movable platform in front of a patterned screen. The doctor measures how your body moves in response to movement of the platform, the patterned screen, or both.
  • Blood tests

Common balance disorders

There are more than a dozen different balance disorders. Here a few of the most common:

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or positional vertigo

This is a brief, intense episode of vertigo that occurs because of a specific change in the position of the head. If you have benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, you might feel as if you're spinning when you look for an object on a high or low shelf or turn your head to look over your shoulder (such as when you back up your car). You also may experience BPPV when you roll over in bed.

Ménière's disease

Ménière's disease is an abnormality of the inner ear causing vertigo or severe dizziness, tinnitus or a roaring sound in the ears, fluctuating hearing loss, and the sensation of pressure or pain in the affected ear. The disorder usually affects only one ear and is a common cause of hearing loss. The symptoms of Ménière's disease occur suddenly and can arise daily or as infrequently as once a year.

Other conditions

Vestibular neuronitis is an inflammation of the vestibular nerve and may be caused by a virus. Its primary symptom is vertigo.

Perilymph fistula is a leakage of inner ear fluid into the middle ear. Patients have unsteadiness when walking or standing that increases with activity and decreases with rest in addition to dizziness and nausea. It can occur after a head injury, drastic changes in atmospheric pressure (such as when scuba diving), physical exertion, ear surgery, or chronic ear infections.

Labyrinthitis is an infection or inflammation of the inner ear that causes dizziness and loss of balance. It frequently is associated with an upper respiratory infection such as the flu.