Disorders of the Ear
Dizziness is a general term that represents sensations of light-headedness and/or loss of balance.
Vertigo is a specific form of dizziness involving a feeling of motion (such as a spinning sensation or sensation of falling) when there is no motion. Vertigo can be caused by conditions affecting the central nervous system (including nerves controlling balance) and organs in the inner ear.
Tinnitus means the patient hears a noise, such as ringing, roaring or buzzing when there is no external source for the sound. The noise can be any frequency from a low to a high pitch. Most frequently these symptoms are due to problems that exist in the inner ear or central nervous system.
What causes ear problems?
Ear diseases which cause vertigo, dizziness or tinnitus can have many different causes, including abnormalities of the ear, outer and middle ear infections, tympanic membrane perforations, or even wax accumulations.
Inner ear issues can be contributing causes.
- Meniere’s Syndrome - an increase in fluid in the part of the inner ear called the labyrinth. The labyrinth is where the semicircular canals and otolithic organs (which regulate balance) and the cochlea (the sensory organ for hearing) are found.
- Perilymphatic Fistula – an abnormal opening that permits the inner ear fluids to leak into the air-filled middle ear. The opening can be congenital, disease- related, or a result of pressure changes or trauma.
- Otosclerosis - an abnormal growth of bone in the middle ear interfering with the normal vibrations produced by sound. It is often an inherited problem and eventually results in complete deafness if not treated. Beethoven’s deafness is thought to have been a result of otosclerosis.
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) – a common cause of vertigo related to gravity sensitive crystals in the inner ear. These crystals relate to your perception of head position. If one or more crystals is dislodged, they can float within the inner ear and create a sense of vertigo or dizziness when you turn your head.
Central nervous system conditions are rarer but can also cause symptoms.
- Multiple sclerosis – a disease where the protective tissue insulating nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord is damaged. The damage interrupts the ability of nerves to carry information within the brain and between the brain and body.
- Tumor - an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor on the nerve between the brain and ear that can cause hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo. Another central nervous system tumor that can affect hearing and balance is a meningioma which develops on the membranes of the brain and spinal column.
Underlying causes of balance and hearing symptoms can be serious unless treated. If you have a sudden occurrence or persistent symptoms of tinnitus or loss of hearing, call for an evaluation appointment with one of our specialists as soon as possible.