What does Balance mean to you? For the scope of this article, balance is maintaining an upright position, evenly weighted on each foot and being able to move forward freely and easily. This is what we all aspire to. Many enjoy balance without ever giving it a second thought.
Some folks are not so fortunate. They may feel they drift to one side as they walk, or they may find it difficult to walk at all. For some folks, just the simple act of rolling over in bed, or getting up from lying down causes them to feel that the world is spinning around them.
Do you know that your ear does two jobs, and your inner ear has 2 parts? One portion of your ear, the cochlea, is responsible for your hearing. The other portion of your ear is the labyrinth, or semicircular canals. This portion is responsible for your balance. Audiologists are educated to have a wealth of knowledge about hearing AND balance. An Audiologist who is certified to evaluate balance disorders can help you with your balance concerns. Loss of balance is deeply frustrating and interferes with everything we want to do. Having your balance evaluated is the first step toward getting better.
There are a number of causes of balance trouble. It can occur due to changes in the blood supply to your ear. It can occur due to side effects of some medications. Balance problems can result from head injuries or even have a genetic foundation.
Balance trouble that causes brief periods of intense spinning sensation can be very disturbing but may also be completely curable. The most common version of this is BPPV, which stands for Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. This is where small crystals, which serve as gravity receptors, migrate out into the semicircular canals from their storage center. The ear is super sensitive to these crystals. When they are out of place, it causes the perception of spinning. The good news is that this is a mechanical dysfunction of the inner ear which can be fixed by careful positioning of the head and body. Audiologists, with special training, are able to evaluate where this system has gone awry and then put the crystals back where they belong. Typically only 1 to 2 treatments are needed to resolve the condition.
For some people, the crystals don’t remain where they belong. There are many reasons to supplement with Vitamin D and this is another one. For people with recurrent BPPV, regularly taking vitamin D can significantly reduce the return of this condition.
Your Audiologist can evaluate your balance and advise you whether you have BPPV or if there is a different source for your problem. She can then advise you regarding follow up care for the test findings. Audiologists partner with physicians and physical therapists to help you obtain the best care for your needs.
While hearing is very important to communication, being able to be comfortably mobile is vital to your continued health and daily function.
Dr. Laura O’Brien Robertson, Au.D. is a doctor of Audiology. She works with Audiology Specialists, LLC at 211 South Main Street. She can be reached at 603-528-7700 or via www.audiologyspecialists.com