How Do Audiologists Test For Balance Disorders?

by | 10/08/2020 | Balance Disorders, FAQ's, Patient Resources

While audiologists are equipped to examine a range of issues that impact hearing, often they’ll have areas of expertise. In my case, I have an advanced understanding of vestibular disorders, which affect people’s sense of balance in everyday situations.

While not many people know about this issue, dizziness and vertigo symptoms are far more common than you might think. Past analysis from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that roughly 35% of adults over 40 suffer from this issue to some degree.

So, to give you more insights, I’ve created an article on the tests and analysis practices that we use to examine this complex issue at All About Hearing.

What causes a balance disorder?

A balance problem can arise from a wide variety of health issues, including things like high blood pressure, basic auto-immune disorders, and strokes. However, it is not uncommon for your vestibular system, which sits inside the inner part of your ear, to be the sole or partial cause of this issue.

This system heavily contributes to your sense of balance, and if it is impaired, you may struggle to stand up straight, walk, or even turn your head without feeling a sense of vertigo.

Audiologists, like myself, often work alongside other medical professionals – such as ENT physicians and neurology specialists – to pinpoint whether someone’s ears are responsible for this sometimes chronic problem.

How do you test for vestibular disorders?

At All About Hearing, we conduct the most advanced form of diagnostic evaluation for vestibular disorders, known as a videonystagmography or VNG test. For this, you’ll wear a pair of goggles that will track your eyes’ involuntary movements, which we will measure throughout the test. This lasts roughly one hour and is split into three parts.

Importantly, none of these will hurt, and once complete, the test will provide us with a full understanding of how your vestibular system is working.

  • During the first part, we’ll test your ocular system, which contributes to your sense of balance.
  • In the second, we’ll analyze how physical movements affect your symptoms by placing you in different positions and adjusting your head to see if it aggravates your dizziness.
  • Finally, for the third, we’ll pipe warm and cold air into your ears – intentionally making you dizzy and letting us check if you have any involuntary eye movements.

What are the next steps?

The VNG test results will let me analyze the extent to which your vestibular system is contributing to your dizziness symptoms. Most of the time, this information will then be passed on to an ENT physician or other medical specialists, who will use it to diagnose your issue and suggest treatments. It is incredibly important that you seek attention if you begin to feel persistent balance issues, particularly due to the high risks arising from trips and falls among the older population.

This is backed up by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which states on its website:

Every second of every day, an older adult (age 65+) suffers a fall in the U.S.—making falls the leading cause of injury and injury death in this age group.”

If you have concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me or other members of the team at All About Hearing. Phone us at (432) 689-2220, and we can get to the root of your problem!

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Dr. Joycelin Lopez, Au.D., CCC-A

Dr. Joycelin grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida. Initially, she earned a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from the state’s university. Then following graduation, she became a learning specialist, working with the hard of hearing. This experience sparked her curiosity in audiology. She returned to the University of Florida for graduate studies, where she gained her doctor of audiology degree. This education took her to North Carolina, where she completed an externship that focused on balance evaluations and central auditory processing. Her decision to move to Midland in late 2020 showcases her spirit of adventure. But also, it demonstrates her determination to find and assist people who can benefit from her professional expertise. Besides audiology, Dr. Joycelin has a passion for art, having taken classes all her life. Mostly, she works with watercolors, but she also has an interest in digital animation.

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