Wearing hearing aids has been a life saver for me. Those little hearing aids have brought my wife and me closer together. We watch and understand TV without any difficulty. We love to go out to different restaurants with friends and enjoy their company. Dr. Phon's work with me in selecting the proper hearing aids and making adjustments has made me a happy man.

- Robert Derhake

Balance, Vertigo, Dizziness

Dizziness examination for St. Louis audiology patientsThe Audiology Center has the most up to date equipment to help diagnose balance and dizziness disorders.

Millions of Americans have disorders involving the system of balance they describe as vertigo or dizziness. What can be difficult for both a patient and his or her doctor is that dizziness is "a subjective term." That means a word like "dizziness" can be used by people to describe different sensations they are experiencing, but it is hard for anyone but the person experiencing the symptoms to understand or measure the nature or severity of the sensations.  Another difficulty is that people tend to use different terms to describe the same kind of problem. "Balance problems," "dizziness," "imbalance," and "disorders of balance" are all used interchangeably.

What is dizziness?

For some people, dizziness is a feeling of unsteadiness or a spinning sensation. Others may experience extreme balance disorders that affect many aspects of their lives. Dizziness may be a fleeting sensation or the prolonged and intense symptom of a wide range of health problems that can affect a person's independence, ability to work, and quality of life. Experts believe that more than 40 percent of Americans will experience dizziness that is serious enough to see a doctor. Even dizziness that seems minor, if undiagnosed, may be a signal of underlying disorders.

Balance problems are among the most common reasons that older adults seek help from a doctor. Many people are surprised to learn that the source of their imbalance may be in their inner ears. Balance (or vestibular) problems are reported in about 9 percent of the population who are 65 years of age or older. Fall-related injuries such as breaking (or fracturing) a hip are a leading cause of death and disability in older individuals. Many of these hip fractures are related to balance disorders. In addition, children who exhibit balance problems should be seen by their doctor.

Balance disorders may also lead to other problems including fatigue, difficulty walking, or disinterest in everyday and leisure activities. If you or your child, parent, friend, or co-worker has a balance problem--take it seriously. Talk to your doctor about what happens when you feel dizzy or lose your balance. Be as specific as possible when describing your dizziness.

What can Cause Dizziness?

Dizziness can be a symptom of a variety of health disorders including:

  • Inner ear or vestibular problems
  • Diseases or injury of the brainstem or brain
  • Cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure or anemia
  • Side effects of medications
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Vision disorders

Describe your symptoms for your doctor

Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, you should discuss the symptom with your doctor.

  • Do I feel unsteady?
  • Do I feel as if the room is "spinning" around me?
  • Do I feel as if I'm moving when I know I'm standing or sitting still?
  • Do I lose my balance and fall?
  • Do I feel as if I'm falling?
  • Do I feel as if I might faint? (sometimes people call this "lightheaded")
  • Does my vision become blurred?
  • Do I ever feel disoriented? (lose my sense of time, place, identity)

What should you do?

Balance disorders are serious. The most important thing you can do if you think you have a balance disorder is to see an audiologist. Your audiologist may refer you to an otolaryngologist, the doctor who specializes in the ear, nose, and throat or your family physician based on his findings.

How can I help my doctor help me?

Before you visit the doctor, write down a few things before you go to your appointment. Put into words a description of your dizziness or balance problem as clearly as you can; document how often you have dizziness or balance problems; document if and how many times you have fallen and list all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use and how often you use them.

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