Hearing Care Specialists - Hopkins, Glencoe, and Watertown, MN

Over ninety million people (fourty two percent of the American population) experience feelings of vertigo, dizziness, and loss of balance during their lifetime; for many of them, this experience becomes a long-term condition. In the elderly, dizziness is the most common reason that people over 75 visit a doctor, and for people over 65, falls resulting from a loss of balance are the number one cause of serious injury and death.

Most (75 percent) of these cases are caused by peripheral vestibular disorders in the inner ear; examples of these conditions include Ménière’s disease, vestibular neuritis, acoustic neuroma, labyrinthitis, perilymphatic fistula and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). These disorders cause abnormalities in the delicate areas of the inner ear that disrupt our ability to maintain and control our sense of balance. Most of the cases of vertigo and dizziness occur in adults, but these conditions can affect kids as well, with even greater impact because they are often involved with athletics or playground activities in which a sense of balance is key.

These conditions can be treated with drugs and surgery, but there is another treatment methodology that uses physical therapy to stimulate and retrain the vestibular system and provide relief – Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT). The Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy exercises are individually prescribed for each patient’s symptoms and complaints, but in general they consist of head movements, eye exercises and gait training designed to reduce symptoms and improve stability. The goals of Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy are to improve balance, minimize falls, decrease the subjective experience of dizziness, improve patients’ stability when walking or moving, improve coordination, and reduce the anxiety they often feel as a result of their condition.

VRT has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms for many people suffering from the conditions mentioned above, and for those with other forms of bilateral or unilateral vestibular loss. The effectiveness of VRT in patients suffering from these conditions who did not respond to earlier treatment methodologies has been proven in several clinical trials. It is not as likely to be beneficial if a patient’s symptoms are the result of reactions to medications, migraine headaches, transient ischemic attacks (TIA), anxiety or depression or low blood pressure.

It is difficult to provide a general overview of the VRT exercises because they are individually tuned to and prescribed for each patient. But most of the exercises involve therapist-led movements of the head and body to help your brain and body retrain themselves to compensate for the erroneous information they are receiving from their inner ear, and thus regain control over their balance and equilibrium. If you have experienced long-term symptoms of dizziness or vertigo, consult a balance specialist and ask for more information. You may also want to contact the Vestibular Disorders Association and take advantage of many of their short publications and resource materials.

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