Hearing and Vestibular Conditions

Ear Anatomy

Acoustic Neuroma/Vestibular Schwannoma

An acoustic neuroma, also known as a vestibular schwannoma,  is a condition consisting tumor of the cells surrounding the nerve that transmits balance information from the inner ear to the brain. It is not malignant. Undiagnosed and untreated, acoustic neuromas can grow and create serious neurological problems and even become life-threatening. Early symptoms include hearing loss, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and dizziness. Many other syndromes also cause similar symptoms; diagnostic work is essential to arrive at the correct interpretation of symptoms. For more information on this condition click here.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

BPPV is the most common type of vestibular disorder resulting in vertigo. You may have heard about it casually called as having “loose rocks in the ear”. But this dizziness caused by calcium particles (otoconia) that are inappropriately displaced into the semicircular canals of the inner ear. These particles are normally attached to hair cells on a membrane inside the inner ear. Changes in head movement cause the otoliths to tilt the hair cells, resulting in a false sensation of movement. Because of this, symptoms of short lasting spinning sensation is most often noticed when rolling in bed or tilting head. BPPV is most common in older adults, and frequently seen after head trauma, although cause is usually unknown. While this is the most common vertigo disorder, it can be easily diagnosed and treated. For more information on this condition click here.

Labyrinthitis and Vestibular Neuritis

Vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis are disorders resulting from an infection that inflames the inner ear or the nerves connecting the inner ear to the brain. This inflammation disrupts the transmission of sensory information from the ear to the brain. Vertigo, dizziness, and difficulties with balance, vision, or hearing may result. Vestibular neuritis affects the branch associated with balance, resulting in dizziness or vertigo but no change in hearing.  Vestibular labyrinthitis occurs when an infection affects both branches of the vestibulo-cochlear nerve, resulting in hearing changes as well as dizziness or vertigo. For more information on this condition click here.

Mal de Debarquement

Mal de Debarquement, or Disembarkment Syndrome, literally means sickness of disembarkment. This is described as the illusion of movement after effect of traveling on water, but can also be experienced by other types of travel. Most individuals experience this illusion of movement almost immediately after the cessation of the precipitating event, and the sensation usually resolves within 24 hours. However, for some individuals this can last a longer period of time, for weeks, months, or even years after the event. The most common symptoms associated with mal de debarquement are rocking, swaying, and disequilibrium.  Symptoms often improve or even disappear during continuous movements such as those experienced while driving a motor vehicle. For more information on this rare condition click here.

 Migraine Associated Vertigo (Vestibular Migraine)

Migraines are as prevalent as high blood pressure and more common than diabetes or asthma. A migraine is often described as “sick headache,” migraine is typically characterized by unilateral onset of head pain, severe progressive intensity of pain, throbbing or pounding, and interference with the person’s routine activities. Accompanying symptoms of sensitivity to light or intolerance to noise, as well as nausea and/or vomiting, are common, and often leads to the inability to perform daily tasks. The clinical presentation of vestibular symptoms that often correlate with migraine includes—but is not limited to—dizziness; motion intolerance with respect to head, eyes, and/or body; spontaneous vertigo attacks (often accompanied by nausea and vomiting); diminished eye focus with photosensitivity; sound sensitivity and tinnitus; balance loss and ataxia; cervicalgia (neck pain) with associated muscle spasms in the upper cervical spine musculature; confusion with altered cognition; spatial disorientation; and anxiety/panic. For more information on this condition click here.

Ménière’s Disease

Ménière’s disease is a chronic vestibular disorder characterized by spontaneous attacks of vertigo, fluctuating hearing loss, ear fullness, and tinnitus that can last anywhere from 20 minutes to 24 hours. These attacks can be separated by weeks, months, or years and occur in an unpredictable nature. Common symptoms of a Ménière’s disease attack do not reflect the entire picture of the disorder, because symptoms vary before, during, between, and after attacks, and also during the late-stage of Ménière’s disease. Ménière’s disease can develop at any age, but it is more likely to happen to adults between 40 and 60 years of age. For more information on this condition click here. 


Otosclerosis is the abnormal growth of bone in the ossicles in the middle ear. This growth prevents structures within the ear from working properly and causes hearing loss. Otosclerosis tends to run in the family. Symptoms include progressive hearing loss that may begin in one ear, then the other. Some people may also experience dizziness or tinnitus. For more information on this condition click here.


Ototoxicity is simply poisoning to the ear resulting from exposure to drugs or chemicals that damage the inner ear or the vestibulo-cochlear nerve, resulting in hearing loss, dizziness, or tinnitus. The occurrence and degree depends upon the drug involved as well as other factors such as heredity. Ototoxicity can be temporary or permanent. For more information on this condition click here.

Perilymph Fistula

A perilymph fistula is an abnormal connection in one or both of the small, thin membranes that separate the air filled middle ear and the fluid filled perilymphatic space of the inner ear. This small opening allows perilymph fluid to leak into the middle ear. Symptoms include unsteadiness that usually increases with activity, along with dizziness and nausea. Perilymph fistula can occur after a head injury, dramatic changes in air pressure (such as when scuba diving), physical exertion, ear surgery, or chronic ear infections. Some people are born with perilymph fistula. For more information on this condition click here.

Credit to Vestibular Disorders Association