A link between your inner ear and your brain helps you keep your balance when you get out of bed or walk over rough ground. This is called your vestibular system.
If a disease or injury damages in this system, you can have a vestibular disorder. Dizziness and trouble with your balance are the most ordinary symptoms, but you also can have problems with your hearing and vision.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV): This is the most common reason of positional vertigo, a sudden feeling that you’re spinning or swaying. It occurs when tiny calcium crystals in one part of your ear move into an area where they shouldn’t be. This causes your inner ear to tell your brain you’re moving when you’re really not.
BPPV can be treated through a series of head movements your doctor guides you through. These put the crystals back where they’re supposed to be.
Labyrinthitis: You might know this as an inner ear infection. It happens when a fragile structure deep inside your ear is known as a labyrinth gets inflamed. This affects not just your balance and hearing, but you also may have ear pain, pressure, pus or fluid coming from your ear, nausea, and a high fever.
If your labyrinthitis is caused by a bacterial infection, you may need to take antibiotics. Your doctor also might recommend steroids to help bring down inflammation or another kind of drug known as an antiemetic to help with vomiting and dizziness.
Vestibular neuritis: A viral infection somewhere else in your body, such as chickenpox or measles, can bring on this disorder that affects the nerve that sends sound and balance information from your inner ear to your brain. The most common symptoms are sudden dizziness with nausea, vomiting, and trouble walking.
To treat vestibular neuritis, your doctor may give you medicine to wipe out the virus that’s causing it.
Meniere’s disease: People with this disorder have sudden attacks of vertigo, tinnitus (a ringing, buzzing, or roaring sound in their ears), hearing loss, and a feeling of fullness in the affected ear. This may be caused by too much fluid in the inner ear, thanks to a virus, allergy, or autoimmune reaction. The hearing loss gets worse over time and can be permanent in some cases.
Enlarged vestibular aqueducts (EVA): The narrow, bony canals that go from your inner ear to the inside of your skull are called vestibular aqueducts. If these get larger than they should be, you can lose your hearing. The reason for EVA isn’t clear, but they seem to be linked to certain genes you can get from your parents.
There’s no proven treatment for EVA. The best ways to safeguard your hearing is to avoid contact sports or anything that can lead to a head injury, and stay away from fast changes in pressure, like the kind that happens with scuba diving.