The vestibular system is something that most people have no idea about, but like the rest of the systems in the body, it is extremely important and we should be taking care of it. One in three people will have vestibular problems.
What is the Vestibular System?
It consists of the organ inside of the ear and the parts of the brain that process information relating to the vestibular system. It is responsible for detecting the head’s position and movement, balance, and eye movement.
If the vestibular system is damaged by disease, aging, or injury, vestibular disorders can happen as a result. Those with vestibular disorders might experience the following symptoms:
- Dizziness and vertigo – spinning sensation when still; lightheadedness, floating or rocking feeling; sensation of being heavily weighted or pulled in one direction
- Imbalance and spatial disorientation – difficulty walking straight or when turning; clumsiness; difficulty maintaining straight posture; difficulty walking in the dark; tendency to hold onto something when standing or seated
- Vision Disturbance – trouble focusing or tracking objects; sensitivity to light, glare or flickering lights; discomfort from busy visual environment; poor depth perception
- Change in Hearing – hearing loss; increased sensitivity to noise; or tinnitus
- Cognitive and/or psychological changes – poor concentration; forgetfulness; difficulty understanding conversations; depression; anxiety or panic; reclusiveness
Other symptoms may include nausea or vomiting; ear pain; headaches; slurred speech. Patients with Meniere’s disease, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) are likely candidates for treatment. Other possible candidates include those who have had a stroke, brain injury or often fall.
What To Expect During Vestibular Rehabilitation
When the vestibular system isn’t working properly, the recommended treatment is vestibular rehabilitation therapy. Proper vestibular rehabilitation assessment can be time-consuming, but it is thorough. You should expect:
- Discussion on history and nature of symptoms
- Evaluation of gait (the way you walk)
- Screening of the inner ear
- Evaluation of eye movements
- Testing for sensitivity to motion or position change
- Evaluation of balance (still and moving), leg strength and flexibility
- Testing other possible contributing factors like the neck or blood-pressure
Based on what is found during the evaluation, a personal treatment plan will be made. Possible activities include eye exercises, training to reduce sensitivity, balance challenges and strategies to deal with cognitive/psychological symptoms.
How Successful is Vestibular Rehabilitation?
Much research has been done on vestibular rehabilitation therapy, with clinical practice guidelines and position statements provided by specialists. You can expect the treatment to improve ability to function when performing everyday activities and reduce the risk of falling. In most cases, symptoms will significantly decrease or disappear completely.
Now that you are informed of what the vestibular system is and the possible symptoms. You can now be more aware of when issues arise. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us!