Vestibular & Balance Disorders

Vestibular & Balance Disorders

Dizziness is one of the most common reasons for a visit to a primary care doctor, but it is not a very descriptive term. It encompasses light-headedness, heavy-headedness, faintness, disorientation, distortion of position in three-dimensional space, turning sensation, spinning sensation or rocking sensation.

The most common cause of vestibular disorders is the side effect to a medication. However, whenever dizziness is followed by a complete loss of consciousness, serious concerns regarding health of the heart or cardiovascular system need prompt medical attention.

As the ears share the same blood supply as the brain, conditions that restrict blood flow to the brain can lead to dizziness. When dizziness is accompanied by other symptoms such as weakness of an arm or leg, double vision, slurred speech, clumsiness of just one arm or leg, facial numbness or facial weakness, prompt medical attention is warranted.

Vestibular Disorders Section Overview

The Section of Vestibular Disorders provides a comprehensive multi-specialty approach to the diagnosis and treatment of vestibular disorders and balance problems.

The balance system is complex and depends on the integration of visual, inner ear, and sensory information from the joints and muscles. The central nervous system integrates this input and directs the body to maintain balance in relation to the demands of the environment.

Many vestibular disorders and problems affecting the vestibular and balance system can be diagnosed with a complete history and physical exam with one of our specialized physicians. When coming for an appointment, patients are asked to bring any records of previous evaluations including physician’s notes, audiograms (hearing tests), vestibular testing, and physical therapy findings. The actual films of prior neuroimaging studies of the brain and/or neck are reviewed, as well as reports from those studies. Patients complete questionnaires about the severity of their dizziness and their overall medical history.

Patients with vestibular disorders should wear comfortable clothing, since the examination will likely involve some reclining and moving from side to side. Special glasses equipped with tiny, infrared cameras to record eye movements may be used to help measure the function of the balance system during these movements.

Additional testing may be suggested if the nature of the problem cannot be determined at the initial visit. Three Cleveland Clinic facilities allow comprehensive assessment to evaluate all aspects of the balance system. Hearing evaluation and neural imaging studies, such as magnetic resonance imaging, can be done, if needed for dizziness or vertigo treatment. Vestibular disorder treatment plans can be formulated for implementation on-site or at home, if patients come from a distance.

Our Team

The multidisciplinary team led by vestibular audiologists includes audiologists, nurses, and vestibular testing technicians and physical therapists trained in specific vestibular disorders and balance therapy techniques. Since the section is located within Cleveland Clinic, rapid access to consultation from many other specialists, such as cardiologists, rehabilitation specialists, and surgical neurotologists, is available, if needed.

Please feel free to contact our office prior to your evaluation if you have questions about what to bring or about medications, or if you are coming from a distance and would like the assistance of our medical concierge service in coordinating the details of your visit.


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