Sudden inner ear damage

Sudden damage to one inner ear causes severe dizziness and can also cause imbalance and difficulty with focusing the eyes. Unilateral vestibulopathy is the technical name for this problem; unilateral indicates that the process affects one ear, and vestibulopathy is a general term referring to disease of the vestibular system. The process is acute, meaning that it came on abruptly. Some people also lose hearing as they lose balance function. Ringing in the ear (tinnitus) can indicate hearing loss.

The primary symptom of damage to the vestibular system of one ear is dizziness. This can range from an internal sensation of spinning to violent vertigo in which the environment is seen to whirl about. Feelings of tilting can also occur. Often the spinning sensation is accompanied by nausea or vomiting. Balance can be impacted too, with falls or staggering. There may be a tendency to drift to one side while walking, or to bump against the doorframe when attempting to pass through a door.

 There can also be difficulty focusing the eyes, called oscillopsia. When a person sees the environment spinning about them, it usually indicates the presence of nystagmus, a rhythmic jerking of the eyes that can be seen by other people if they watch your eyes closely. This eye movement interferes with the ability to focus. In addition, if the injury to the inner ear is very severe, it can interfere with focusing when the head is turned. This can cause the illusion that the environment suddenly shifts past in a blur when the head is turned quickly toward the injured ear.

These injuries can also cause neck pain because the inner ear helps control the position of the head, and inner ear malfunction may cause the head to be held tilted. When function in one ear is lost suddenly, the symptoms are worst during the first couple of days and gradually taper off over the next several weeks to months.

In our next post, we will show how to reduce the symptoms using a special exercise called “blink turns”, and post a video to help teach this.

Published by Vertigone

I translate the medical world of dizziness for non-medical people

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