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.

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Drugs and dizziness

Intoxication with drugs that affect the vestibular system can cause dizziness and imbalance. There is often nystagmus, abnormal jerking eye movements that indicate that the vestibular system is not working properly. Usually there is also a tendency to stagger when walking, called ataxia. Most of these drugs affect the cerebellum of the brain, a part of the brain at the base of the skull used to coordinate movement and balance. Intoxication with certain drugs may also affect the inner ear.

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Stopping the spins

It turns out that alcohol is much less dense than the fluid of the inner ear.  If you drink a lot of alcohol over a short period of time, it can enter the cupula quickly through the bloodstream.  This lightens the cupula fairly quickly, in as little as 30 minutes.  The inner ear fluids don’t have a way to pick alcohol up from the bloodstream that fast, but only very slowly adjust over hours until the cupula and the fluids again have matching density. 

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