One of the most common causes of persistent dizziness and hearing loss is a condition known as vestibular dysfunction. Surprisingly, this condition affects up to thirty-five percent of people over forty. Here’s what you need to know about this disorder.
Dizziness can be an uncomfortable and sometimes scary symptom, especially if the cause isn’t apparent. There are a variety of reasons why dizziness can occur ranging from ear infections to anxiety. In some cases, dizziness can be associated with hearing problems. One of the most common causes of persistent dizziness and hearing loss in people over the age of forty is a condition known as vestibular dysfunction. It’s estimated that up to thirty-five percent of adults over the age of forty suffer from some degree of vestibular dysfunction, making it one of the most common causes of dizziness in this age group. This condition becomes even more common in older age groups and is estimated to affect as many as eighty-five percent of those over the age of eighty. It’s also more common in diabetics.
What is Vestibular Dysfunction?
Vestibular dysfunction is caused by dysfunction of the inner ear. The inner ear plays an important role in maintaining the body’s balance and sense of equilibrium. When the inner ear malfunctions, persistent dizziness and hearing loss are more likely to occur. Vestibular dysfunction also significantly increases the risk of falling due to balance related issues. Experts believe that many of the falls experienced by the elderly are due to balance problems related to vestibular dysfunction.
Does Vestibular Dysfunction Always Cause Persistent Dizziness and Hearing Problems?
In a study published in Family Practice News, researchers found after testing a group of people for vestibular function, some participants had this condition despite experiencing no dizziness. This group was still at a markedly increased risk of falling. Persistent dizziness isn’t always present with vestibular dysfunction, but in many cases it is.
How is This Condition Detected?
Any person with persistent dizziness and hearing loss needs screening for vestibular dysfunction. Some doctors believe that anyone over the age of forty should be routinely tested. Screening is done through a series of balance tests to check for unsteadiness or other irregularities in balance. Some doctors don’t routinely perform these tests because they require specialized knowledge and training.
How is Vestibular Dysfunction Treated?
The persistent dizziness and balance problems associated with vestibular dysfunction can often be corrected with special balance exercises performed under the guidance of a physical therapist. Once mastered, they can then be carried out regularly at home until the incorrect signals sent by the malfunctioning inner ear to the brain can be compensated for. This usually corrects the persistent dizziness and reduces the risk of falling.
The Bottom Line?
Anyone who has persistent dizziness and hearing loss or any problems with balance should ask their doctor about screening for vestibular dysfunction.