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Vestibular & Dizziness Therapy

Dizziness and Balance Disorders

Many thousands of people suffer from dizziness, loss of balance, nausea, and vertigo, as well as visual and hearing problems – all symptoms of vestibular disorders caused by damage to part of the inner ear. This damage can be from trauma such as a blow to the head, a neck injury, a medical situation from middle ear infections and degeneration, headaches, or a stroke.

Suffering from dizziness and balance disorders can be severely debilitating and frustrating. Normal daily activities such as driving, cooking, and walking may have to be limited or stopped, and these conditions can be misunderstood by friends and family. At Peak & Balance Centers of America, we diligently work to get you back to good health by first properly identifying and diagnosing your condition, then working closely with top neurologists, ENT specialists, and family practitioners to ensure your custom program produces the best treatment outcome.

Our CEO and head of physical therapy, Jim Buskirk, is an acknowledged leader in the field of research and treatment of dizziness and vestibular disorders. For an appointment with a vestibular and dizziness therapy expert, call Peak & Balance Centers today or request an appointment online.

Inner Ear Disorders

Many of the symptoms that result from dizziness and balance disorders are obscure and frightening. Although the following symptom list is incomplete and does not apply to everyone with an inner ear disorder, it may aid people who have been unable to make sense out of their seemingly “abnormal” sensations and symptoms. We hope it is comforting to discover that these symptoms are not imagined, but are very real and caused by a physical problem.

The three symptom types associated with inner ear disorders are vision, hearing and balance.

Vision symptoms

  • Objects jump (e.g., silverware jumps off the table, stairs swing)
  • Reading is difficult (e.g., print moves, vision blurs or doubles, words or letters switch)
  • Writing is difficult
  • Lights glow or emit rays; glare is intensified
  • Discomfort when focusing on distant objects and a tendency to look down
  • Night blindness increases
  • Poor depth perception
  • Moving or flickering lights may be disturbing

Hearing symptoms

  • Hearing fluctuates, is lost completely, or remains unaffected
  • Distortions such as popping, clicking, or buzzing occur
  • Loud environments cause discomfort or nausea
  • Ears feel “full“

Vestibular Rehabilitation

Our vestibular rehabilitation program is individually designed for patients whose symptoms are generated from the vestibular system. The therapy has two primary goals: safety and improved function.

Typically, the patient participates in one or two supervised sessions per week, with an average program of 8 to 10 sessions that emphasize the use of visual training aids and balance training techniques.

As the patient progresses and gains confidence, he or she will be given more difficult tasks and exercises in the office and home to accelerate improvement. Most patients report a significant reduction of their symptoms within a 6- to 8-week time span.

There are several therapies that we may use as part of a vestibular rehabilitation program:

Habituation

This type of therapy is for people with positional vertigo and dizziness. The therapy treatment reproduces the eliciting position, repetitiously eliminating the symptom. It is similar to a figure skater spinning or a fighter pilot tolerating flying a jet. You probably have felt the same way when you spun yourself on a chair. It is critical for our patients to experience the environment that provokes their symptoms repetitively until they develop a habituation to the stimulus.

What happens with patients with dizziness is that they tend to avoid the movements or environments that provoke symptoms or they take a medication like meclizine or Antivert® that can have significant side effects. Taking meclizine or even Valium® for dizziness is like driving your car in the fog: you can usually see a few yards in front of you and then everything else becomes distorted.

Compensatory Therapy

The compensatory approach is for patients who have uncorrectable problems (i.e., stroke, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury). The emphasis is on safety, the use of assistive devices, and modifying the home environment to reduce the potential for accidents.

Inevitably, there will be some patients for whom vestibular rehabilitation does not work. This is commonly seen in our patients with significant central balance disorders or with “unstable” inner ear dysfunction. A common unstable inner ear injury is Meniere’s disease. Some patients with Meniere’s disease can benefit from therapy including endurance, strengthening, and education on diet.

Balance Retraining

Balance retraining is for individuals who have a loss of balance or unsteadiness. There is an emphasis on practical solutions to the common problems of difficulty moving around in the dark, walking on uneven surfaces, and performing everyday life tasks.

We may ask you to repetitively stand in certain positions while doing head and body movements to challenge the balance system. The bottom line is this: perfect practice makes perfect! If you have an imbalance, you need to practice with therapy to learn to gain it back.

Home Exercises

This is a home-based program that the patient does on his own following a training or instructional session. All patients are given an appropriate home program to reinforce the therapy provided at the clinic. This is probably the most important component to balance retraining therapy (BRT) or vestibular rehabilitation. A patient must follow through with a home program to affect long-term wellness.

If you experience any of the vision, hearing or balance symptoms of an inner ear disorder, you could benefit from vestibular therapy. Let the experts at Peak & Balance Centers help you overcome your dizziness and balance disorder with a personalized vestibular rehabilitation program. Call us today at one of our 4 Chicago area locations.

Peak & Balance Centers of America