Inner ear problems are manifested by symptoms including dizziness, muffled hearing or a faint ringing sound in the ear. Speak with your health care provider immediately if you are experiencing unusual symptoms. Some symptoms are caused by serious medical conditions not related to the inner ear and require immediate medical attention.
Individuals with inner ear problems experience symptoms that may not be immediately recognized as such. The most common symptom is constant dizziness, also called vertigo. Episodic or conditional dizzy sensations are not the same as inner ear problems. (For example, the dizzy feeling one experiences at high altitudes.) Individuals should contact their health care provider immediately for diagnosis.
When medical professionals perform tests on inner ear problems, the doctor will usually ask several questions regarding the patient's overall health, as well as other symptoms they may be experiencing. The doctor will determine if the dizziness is general, if dizziness is only caused when the head is in a certain position, if the patient recently experienced a physical trauma or recent illness, and other underlying health factors that may be contributing to the condition.
Types of Tests
Common tests for inner ear problems include:
- Head-thrust test: observing the patient's eyes while the doctor moves around the room, or asks the patient to focus on a particular object
- Gait test: a walking test where the doctor observes whether the patient is standing in balance, or leaning to one side
- The Dix-Hallpike maneuver: the patient is in upright seated position on the examining table, and quickly lays back with their head turned
- Romberg Station: this test is usually used for children. The patient stands with one foot in front of the other with the heel touching the toe of the other foot as the doctor assesses the patient's balance
This is not a comprehensive list of the tests a doctor may perform, but these tests are highly typical.
Otolaryngology is a medical branch that specializes in the treatment and diagnosis of the ear, nose and throat disorders. Some otolaryngologists may also include the head and neck. Medical specialists in this field are commonly referred to as ENT doctors. ENT is an acronym for "ear, nose, throat."
Symptoms of dizziness, hearing loss, ringing in the ear (tinnitus) are not always related to inner ear problems. These symptoms can also be found, for example, in cardiovascular conditions, respiratory infections, nervous system conditions or anxiety disorders.
- Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Cameron Cassan
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