Don’t Rock the Boat!

For many Midwesterners, summer is the perfect time to get out and enjoy area lakes, boating and fishing. But if you’re someone who suffers from dizziness or balance disorders, the thought of climbing aboard a boat may sound like a nightmare, instead of a vacation. In fact, according to a recent poll from the Vestibular Disorders Association, 55% of participants said boating made their vestibular symptoms worse.

Of course, you could always avoid boating in the summer months if you have a dizziness or balance problem, but why continue to suffer?

Often, dizziness and balance problems may be caused by Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), the number one cause of vertigo. It typically occurs with a change in head or body position. Episodes last less than one minute, but can make the individual feel terrible. 

BPPV is caused by changes in the balance portion of the inner ear. Calcium carbonate particles, which the ear uses as part of its gravity detector, move from the utricle into one or more of the semicircular canals. 

Although this condition can happen at any age, by 70 years of age, 50 percent of all individuals will experience BPPV. The most common conditions that cause BPPV are vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis (inner ear infections). There is no pain with this type of ear infection, but you may have initially experienced sudden vertigo with nausea lasting hours.

Common medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, migraine and TIAs (small vessel ischemia in the brain) may also cause BPPV. Mild head trauma can also cause this condition, but often, the cause is unknown.

The most popular treatment for BPPV is a simple and painless  repositioning maneuver. The treatment returns the otolithic debris to its originating larger space within the ear (utricle), allowing the body to absorb the calcium particles within several hours to days.

The repositioning maneuver is not a permanent cure, but instead a  treatment. The condition may recur, and does in about 10% of cases. It may recur anytime from a few months to years later, or perhaps, never. Other medical conditions or prescription medications may promote the recurrence (particularly if they affect the body’s  processing of calcium).

At Associated Audiologists, our results in treating patients with BPPV have been very successful.  We have found that 80% of patients need one treatment, 17% will need two, and only 3% will need three or more.

Many other issues may cause dizziness and balance problems including vestibular migraine and vestibular neuronitis/neuritis. Both are much less common than BPPV, but do occur, and can affect an individual’s quality of life, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks, such as taking a boat ride, bending over to pick up a golf ball, or safely walk down the stairs.

Danielle Dorner, Au.D., a vestibular specialist with Associated Audiologists, is experienced at diagnosing and treating BPPV, as well as the many other possible causes of dizziness and balance issues. She utilizes the latest diagnostic technology to determine what’s causing an individual’s dizziness and balance problems.

Dr. Dorner earned her Doctorate of Audiology degree from Northern Illinois University and her  bachelor’s degree from Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois. She performed her clinical externship  with Associated Audiologists.

She is a member of the Academy of Doctors of  Audiology (ADA), holds a certificate of clinical  competence in audiology from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and is a member of the  Kansas Speech-Language-Hearing Association (KSHA).

Dr. Dorner sees patients at our Northland and Overland Park Clinics. Schedule an appointment for a comprehensive dizziness and balance evaluation with her by calling 816-442-7831.

For more information on dizziness and balance disorders, download our free e-book:  What to Know About Dizziness and Balance.