Balance Disorders

Causes of dizziness

Dizziness can be a feeling of movement or spinning such as vertigo, lightheadedness, feeling of impending faint, or inability to maintain one's balance. Some also consider general weakness or visual problems as "dizziness".

Vertigo is generally used to medically describe this condition. Common causes of dizziness are ear disorders, diabetes, blood pressure problems, medications, visual abnormalities and other conditions that generally weaken the body. Less common, but still serious, are heart problems, stroke, toxic chemicals and brain tumors.

Although aging can also contribute to dizziness and balance problems are common among the elderly, dizziness should not be considered part of the "aging package".

Health risks of dizziness

Accidental injury, in most cases resulting from a fall, ranks as the sixth leading cause of death in the elderly. Research estimates that 20 percent of individuals 65 years or older will suffer a fall - equating to nearly seven million falls annually. The greatest risk from a fall is suffering from fractures, most significantly hip fractures. Hip fractures pose many complications, including long-term disabilities and death.

How can I benefit from this assessment?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you are a candidate for Balance Function Testing or our Falls Prevention Clinic:

  • Do I feel dizzy when I get up from sitting or moving quickly?
  • Have I fallen in the past year?
  • Am I afraid of falling?
  • Do I have numbness in my legs or feet?
  • Does the room ever spin?
  • Do I feel off balance?
  • Am I lightheaded or feel like I may faint?

If you feel you are in need of or may benefit from an assessment of your dizziness, it is important that you discuss this with your physician (or primary care physician) and have them refer you to our clinic. A physician's referral is necessary to be seen for Balance Function Testing with Henry Ford Health System.

Balance function testing - what to expect

A Henry Ford Audiologist will evaluate your entire balance. The evaluation assesses your inner ear and brain to determine what may or may not be causing your dizziness or balance problem. A complete Balance Function Test takes approximately two hours. It consists of the Video Nystagmography (VNG) and Rotational Chair tests.

The VNG involves the patient lying on a table and following targets with their eyes, then having warm and cool air run softly into their ears for a brief period of time (approximately 1 minute), while the Rotary Chair rocks the patient back and forth slowly at different speeds.

Preparing for your balance function testing

Please arrive 15 minutes prior to your appointment time. The following guidelines are recommended to prepare for this evaluation:

  • Wear loose clothing (pants should be able to be rolled up and, please, no tights or pantyhose).
  • Bring glasses if you wear them.
  • Bring your walking aid (cane, walker) if you use one.
  • Medications - . Tranquilizers, sedatives, antihistamines or any medications for dizziness must be STOPPED for 48 hours prior to your evaluation appointment. Please consult with your physician before discontinuing any medications.
  • If you are diabetic, epileptic, have heart problems or high blood pressure, please CONTINUE your medications.
  • Do NOT eat four hours prior to the examination if you are prone to motion sickness
  • Do NOT drink any alcoholic beverages 48 hours prior to your evaluation appointment
  • Do NOT eat or drink anything containing caffeine the day of the test. This includes chocolate, coffee, tea and soda.
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