Your sense of physical balance, or equilibrium, can be disrupted by irregularities in your inner ear. These disruptions can cause dizziness and other balance disorders. If you are having issues with your balance, or often feel dizzy, it is important that you have one of the following tests performed to diagnose the issue and determine the cause.
Types of Balance Tests
Electronystagmography balance testing uses electrodes to test your involuntary rapid eye movement and the muscles that control eye movement to determine the cause of your balance issues.
During the posturography balance test, you stand on a computer-controlled platform that measures the way your body sways in order to diagnose your balance issues.
Rotary Chair Test
For this test, you will sit on a computer-controlled chair that rotates in the dark. The rotations cause involuntary rapid eye movements, which are measured to diagnose your balance issues.
This balance test measures the electrical activity produced within your inner ear after hearing a sound. Electrocochleography is used to diagnose Ménière’s disease, the symptoms of which include severe dizziness, ringing sounds, fluctuating hearing loss, and pain or pressure in the ears.
During the caloric study, cold or hot water is poured into your ear, which causes involuntary eye movements. This test determines whether the cause of your balance disorder is an issue with your inner ear or a neurological disorder.
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
Auditory brainstem response (ABR) is a type of audiometry that measures how well the brain and inner-ear pathways are responding to sound. We measure brain wave responses using electrodes. It’s a painless way to evaluate balance, dizziness and hearing problems.
Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potentials (VEMP)
In general, Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potentials (or VEMP) testing is used to discover uncommon or unusual causes of your balance issues. This test is designed to monitor the signals sent between your inner ear and your brain. In particular, VEMP testing is looking at your vestibular nerve (located within your inner ear), which is responsible for sending balance-related messages to your brain.
During a VEMP test, you will:
Sit in a reclined position with electrodes placed on your and your neck.
Listen to knocking sounds
Lift your head slightly in various directions.
The whole procedure usually takes 60 minutes or less.
During the diagnostic, the VEMP testing will localize which side of your head (or which ear) is causing the balance issues. In this way, VEMP testing can be useful in diagnosing Meniere’s Disease, Superior Semicircular Canal Dehiscence, and Perilymphatic fistula.
VEMP testing is completely non-invasive, and there are no lingering effects.
What Is Causing My Unsteadiness?
Other causes of balance issues may include a head injury or ear infection. Low blood pressure can also lead to a feeling of dizziness if you stand up too quickly. Arthritis and eye muscle imbalances are also known to cause balance problems. Advancing age and even certain medications are other common causes of dizziness and balance problems.
How Are Balance Problems Treated?
First, we need to determine the cause of your balance issues, then we can recommend a treatment method.
For example, your balance issues may require a therapist to create a treatment plan especially for you. The plan would include balance retraining exercises to strengthen your balance, increase your energy levels and reduce stress.
There are also positioning procedures – specific head and neck movements that clear the inner ear canal and often improve balance issues.
Diet and lifestyle changes may also improve your balance problems. This includes quitting smoking, as well as reducing salt, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and chocolate. Simple exercises, including walking and low-impact aerobics, may help, as well.
There are anti-vertigo and anti-nausea medications available to relieve balance disorders. The antibiotic gentamicin, or even corticosteroids, can be injected behind the eardrum for those with severe balance problems.
Surgery may be required to alleviate your balance problems if you have Meniere’s disease or another medical issue that can’t be remedied using less invasive methods.