Balance and Dizziness

The inner ear is comprised of two distinct parts. The cochlea deals with only hearing while the vestibular system is responsible for balance and spacial orientation. Balance is maintained by three different mechanisms: the vestibular system of the inner ear, vision and muscle sense known as proprioception. Most people can function with any two of these, but relying on only one is usually disabling.

You can see that the workup of the dizzy patient can be very complicated requiring the evaluations of multiple specialists and a number of blood tests, CT scans or MRI’s. In cases of sudden incapacitating dizziness or syncope (passing out), immediate medical attention should be sought. Milder cases of dizziness or vertigo that persist beyond a few days should also be medically evaluated.


The sensation of dizziness, moving, spinning or swaying is called vertigo. Vertigo can feel like you are spinning or your surroundings are spinning. It is a symptom of balance dysfunction which is often described as wooziness, faintness unsteadiness, spatial disorientation or swooning. Vertigo is defined as a hallucination of movement, the patient experiences either movement of their environment or body which is not actually occurring. About two thirds of cases of true vertigo come are due to a disturbance in the inner ear and about one third are due to central nervous symptoms disorders such as multiple sclerosis and vestibular migraines.

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