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5 Things You Need to Know About Inner Ear Disorders

By Livestrong Contributor ; Updated August 14, 2017

Feelings Associated with Inner Ear Disorders

Inner ear disorders are often frightening. They can make you feel like you're spinning around, causing loss of balance. It can happen so suddenly that you find you're unable to navigate around the room, as though intoxicated. Inner ear disturbances can cause feelings of loss of control, and in turn, anxiety and depression.

Symptoms

Invariably, you'll feel dizzy when something goes wrong with the inner ear; vertigo is the associated term. Dizziness is always scary. The good news is that about sixty percent of dizzy episodes are related to inner ear problems, which are not a huge health risk. It's the same feeling you had when you spun around as the child, opened your eyes, and the room kept moving. Do you remember how you fell down because you lost your balance afterwards? Gradual hearing loss may be a sign of an inner ear problem, as well as intermittent dizziness. Following an acute attack, you might continue to feel off balance. It may be difficult to focus, causing an almost surreal experience. Spatial perceptions may be altered, and you might feel like you're being pushed backward or from side to side. Nausea and vomiting are common, as well as ringing or hissing in the ears, ear fullness and fatigue. Sometimes the symptoms are subtle, coming on gradually.

Causes of Inner Ear Disorders

Viral infections are responsible for the majority of inner ear disturbances. The infection causes the inner ear to become inflamed. The nerves in the inner ear are connected to the brain, and that's why the symptoms can be so disconcerting. The virus can attack one nerve, causing neuritis, or it can attack both nerves, causing labyrinthitis. Occasionally, bacteria invade the inner ear, but it's not as common. It is always important to determine whether the cause is viral or bacterial. The treatment is different in each case. Meniere's disease may be the result of immune dysfunction, but the theory is being closely studied. We have yet to discover exactly what causes Meniere's disease, but we know what happens in the inner ear. The symptoms are caused by fluctuating pressure in the middle ear. Too much fluid might be secreted in the middle ear, or scar tissue can narrow the ducts that provide proper fluid drainage, though many people have normal ear structure and still develop Meniere's disease. The problem affects people of all ages. Autoimmune inner ear disorders, or AIED, account for less than one percent of inner ear problems. The mechanism is complex, but in essence, the immune system produces antibodies that destroy healthy body parts; in this case, the structures of the ear. Several conditions are associated with autoimmune ear disease, including allergies. AIED has also been associated with dry eye syndrome, ulcerative colitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma. The most popular theory about how this happens involves rogue cells (T-cells) that accidentally attack the ear while trying to fight other infections or viruses. Trauma to the ear can cause disturbance in the labyrinth, or inner ear. Benign tumors, known as acoustic neuromas, can occur in the inner ear. Certain medications, particularly antibiotics, can damage the middle ear.

Conditions that Mimic Inner Ear Disorders

It's important not to dismiss the symptoms we've talked about. You may have a more serious health problem, and it's important to get a definite diagnosis. Whenever you have even a minor health concern, remember that diagnosis always provides the best outcomes. There's never a good reason to wait and see what happens when it comes to your well-being. Conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, diabetes, stroke or mini-stroke and even multiple sclerosis can mimic the symptoms of inner ear disorder. Give your doctor a detailed description of exactly what you are experiencing, even if it seems minor.

Treatment

Treatment of any inner ear disorder depends on the cause. Surgery, antibiotics, and medications to control the symptoms during an attack are all considered valuable. The sooner you get a diagnosis, the better. Inner ear disorders can cause permanent hearing loss. Again, it's never worth watching and waiting when it comes to your health and well-being. The goal is to stay active and find ways to minimize and avoid recurrences.

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