The Many Kinds of Vestibular Disorders

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Sep 26, 2014

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Quick Bites

  • Vestibular disorders originate in the inner ear.
  • There are various common and rare types of vertibular disorders.
  • Some disorders cause episodic problems with balance.
  • Others result in chronic symptoms.

Parts of inner ear and brain that process the sensory information associated with controlling balance and eye movements are included under vestibular system. In case these processing areas are damaged by injury or disease, it can result into vestibular disorders which are actually balance disorders.

These disorders can also be a result of or become worse by genetic and environmental factors and sometimes, the cause for them is unknown.

There are various types of vestibular disorders. Some occur very commonly and others rarely. Some of them may cause episodic problems with balance while the others may show up chronic symptoms. Here is an overview of all types of vestibular disorders known.

Acoustic Neuroma

Also known as vestibular schwannoma, it is a serious tumour that develops on the sheath of inner ear’s vestibule-cochlear nerve. This nerve transmits both balance and sound information to the brain. The neuroma derives its name from the said nerve which is also called the acoustic nerve. The acoustic neuroma grows and squeezes the acoustic nerve, resulting into hearing loss, tinnitus, and dizziness or loss of balance.

Vestibular Disorders

Age-related dizziness and Imbalance

Vestibular problems are one of many reasons for dizziness in elderly such as problems with the brain, vision systems, neuropathy, psychological and unknown causes. Vestibular disorders, however, are thought to be the most common cause of dizziness in older people, responsible for approximately 50% of the reported dizziness in the elderly.

Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease

The function of our body’s immune system is to defend the body from virus attacks. A malfunction in the immune system may cause it to attack the body’s healthy cells, mistaking them for enemies. A foul-functioning of the immune system can make it attack the ears; even if they are not directly attacked, they can end up with debris transported from distant locations and deposited by the circulation. Problems are caused due to this debris collection in the ear.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

It is a common vestibular disorder resulting into vertigo, dizziness, and other symptoms due to debris (otoconia) that has collected within a part of the inner ear. BPPV is benign in nature, which means that it is not life-threatening and is generally not progressive. A person suffering from BPPV may experience a sensation of spinning (vertigo) that is both paroxysmal and positional. Vertigo occurs suddenly and with a change in head position.

Vestibular Disorders

Cervicogenic Dizziness

This type is characterized by dizziness resulting from neck pain. The two accompany each other so often that it becomes difficult to tell whether they are related or just coincidental. Cervicogenic dizziness tends to cause dizziness that is worse during head movements or after maintaining one head position for a long time.


A skin growth that occurs in an abnormal location, the middle ear behind the eardrum, is known as clolesteatoma. It occurs by repeated infection that causes an in-growth of the skin of the eardrum.  It takes the form of a cyst or pouch that sheds layers of old skin from the build-up inside the ear. With time, the size of cholesteatoma increases and destroys the bones surrounding the middle ear which are delicate. Cholesteatoma growth can result into hearing loss, dizziness, and facial muscle paralysis but the chances of this are rare.


This is actually a symptom of many types of vestibular disorders and is not vestibular disorder by itself. Tinnitus is characterised by an abnormal noise sensed in one or both ears or in the head.  The sound may be felt to be stopping and starting at irregular intervals, or it may appear constant and continuous. It can be perceived as a ringing, hissing, whistling, buzzing, or clicking sound and can vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal.

The first thing a doctor will do to treat a balance disorder is determine if your dizziness is caused by a medical condition or medication. If it is, your doctor will treat the condition or suggest a different medication.

Image Courtesy: Getty

Read more articles on Balance Disorders.

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