Anybody can experience issues with balance at some point in their lives and are often surprised to learn that the source of imbalance may be the inner ears. The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that process the sensory information involved with controlling balance and eye movements. If disease, genetic conditions or injury damages these processing areas, vestibular disorders can result.

Signs and Symptoms of Vestibular Disorders

  • Vertigo and dizziness
  • Imbalance and spatial disorientation
  • Vision disturbance
  • Hearing changes
  • Cognitive and/or psychological changes.

The majority of imbalance conditions can be helped through vestibular rehabilitation. The goal of treatment is to minimize dizziness, improve balance and prevent falls by restoring normal function of the vestibular system.

What to Expect

Dr. Holloway is certified in Vestibular Rehabilitation and will develop an individualized treatment plan that includes exercises to strengthen posture, gait and components of the balance system, such as eyes, ears and legs. During the treatment process, a home exercise program may be designed and implemented specific to the tolerance, physical condition and diagnosis of each patient.

These exercises are designed to retrain the brain to recognize and process signals from the vestibular system, helping the patient to become desensitized to movements that provoke symptoms and strengthen muscles. Approximately 90 percent of patients show levels of improvement from vestibular rehabilitation.

Vestibular means pertaining to balance. The vestibular system is part of the inner ear and gives feedback to the brain about straight-linear and rotational movement of the head.

We often see balance issues particularly in patients who are 65 years of age and older. Often this is related to muscle weakness secondary to illness and/or inactivity.

There are many concerns related to balance. When you consider that our brains have to filter information received from our eyes and our hearing. When sight or hearing have declined, this can disrupt how the brain interprets information.

When hearing and sight have both declined, the brain receives conflicting information, it creates confusion and the brain tries to correct. The overall result of this over-correction leads to many of the symptoms below.

  • Vertigo: A feeling as if you are spinning with little or no movement at all.
  • Lightheadedness (wooziness): Feeling as if you may pass out.
  • Motion Sickness: Feeling nauseous or even vomiting due to the motion.
  • Disequilibrium: Feeling of unsteadiness, tripping or dragging feet. (This is one of the most common symptoms and of the greatest to be concerned with due to safety concerns.)
  • Behavioral: Closely associated with emotion, such as a fear of falling.

In some cases, hearing loss can be a viral issue.

Though issues in the vestibular area are most common in those 65 and older, these issues can actually affect people of all ages. If you have played a sport and suffered a concussion, there is a good possibility that vestibular function of the inner ear may be compromised. If you have fallen or had a blow to the head, there could be lasting effects.

If you or your child were born prematurely, there may be a compromise in the vestibular system. This can delay physical development of the child and potentially cause learning disabilities, ADD or ADHD.

As for treatment, with many conditions, this may include work on desensitizing the vestibular system, increasing activation where function is lacking and helping the visual and vestibular system to work better together. Our physical therapist work on strength, gait, coordination to improve balance and reduced the risk of falls.