If you’ve ever had Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), chances are you won’t forget it. While everyone will experience it differently, BPPV causes vertigo–an unexpected but false sense of spinning–and is the most common among inner ear problems. BPPV is not life-threatening and lasts only for brief periods of time, but it still can affect your quality of life and may put you at risk for falls. Read on to learn more about what causes BPPV, its symptoms and diagnosis, and how it can be treated.

What Causes My BPPV?

Special small calcium crystals located within the complex structure of the inner ear help you with balance, motion and posture, and they are meant to stay in place. As you get older, the crystals can become loose and move to the wrong part of the inner ear, the semicircular canals. As the crystals float and resettle, your brain receives forceful but inaccurate messages that your body is spinning violently. Something as simple as tilting your head, lying down, or rolling over in bed can shake the crystals loose and trigger the symptoms of BPPV.

What Kinds of Symptoms Should I Look for?

Common symptoms of BPPV include:

  • Vertigo: a sense that you or your surroundings are moving or spinning, even if you are lying still
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea (and sometimes vomiting)
  • Unsteadiness or loss of balance
  • Rapid involuntary eye movement

These symptoms may come and go quickly, lasting no more than a minute. The symptoms of BPPV may happen again, depending on whether new crystals in the inner ear loosen and move. Although these symptoms don’t seem serious, the risk of falling caused by losing your balance is. Diagnosis and treatment of BPPV are key to staying safe by reducing your fall risk.

How Is BPPV Diagnosed?

As a first step, your doctor at Scottsdale ENT will perform a balance test to identify the cause of your vertigo and dizziness. Since the inner ear controls both hearing and balance, one of Scottsdale ENT’s audiologists will work closely with your doctor to help with diagnosis and treatment options. The balance test consists of a group of diagnostic tests that are non-invasive, straightforward and painless. They measure your balance and center of gravity, inner ear function, and eye movements. The results of the balance test will provide your doctor with the necessary information to diagnose and treat your symptoms.

What Are the Treatment Options for BPPV?

The symptoms of BPPV may go away after several weeks or months. But getting treatment for this condition can give you some relief and, more importantly, reduce your chances of falling due to balance problems. In most circumstances, your Scottsdale ENT will perform a series of simple movements for the positioning of your head. The goal of these movements is to move the calcium crystals from the semicircular canals back into their original, stabilized place in the inner ear. The doctor will have you hold these positions for about 30 seconds after your symptoms stop. It may take one or two treatments for you to feel relief from your BPPV symptoms. Sometimes the doctor will teach you these movements so that you can do them at home if needed.

You may be inconvenienced by the symptoms of BPPV. But the loss of balance associated with it greatly increases your risk of serious falls. Take the initiative to be safe and get your symptoms checked out and treated.

As Arizona’s most advanced center for ENT health, Scottsdale Ear, Nose & Throat can help through a number of advanced tests, using their state-of-the-art equipment. Contact us to schedule a balance test today!

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Dr. Debra L. Hamila, Au.D., CCC/A

Debra Hamila received her master’s degree in audiology from Cleveland State University and her Au.D. from Arizona School of Health Sciences and has been a practicing audiologist for more than 33 years. She has worked in a variety of ENT offices, hospital, and clinical settings.
    You don’t realise you’re walking with a rock in your shoe until you’re able to hear again – Regina’s Story

    Regina has suffered from hearing problems since she was an infant, recognized as regular chronic ear infections. And, as with unfortunate events, she has experienced a multitude of audiology catastrophes.

    It was many years before Regina crossed paths with Scottsdale Ear, Nose & Throat; where her lifetime of hearing problems was addressed effectively and treated with the delicate care that she desperately required.

    Regina’s journey began when she was taken to a regular paediatrician by her mother from a young age. Her ears were, what we describe as an audiologists recipe for disaster, ‘flushed out’.

    This dangerous procedure caused a nasty infection, which spread to her mastoid bone and, at the age of 15, she underwent a tympanoplasty mastoidectomy to stop the infection spreading. This only forbade her future struggles with hearing loss. 

    As with poor diagnosis, Regina was faced with another canaloplasty which didn’t work. Soon after, she received a BAHA, which is a cochlear implant in her skull that acts as a sound processor that detects sound and transforms it into vibrations. 

    However, suffering from a history of poor hearing care, she was unaware of the former issues her ear presented.

    By now, this would be described as any audiologists nightmare. But, we’re proud to have helped Regina on her road to optimum hearing and reconnect her to her loved ones.

    When she arrived at Scottsdale Ear, Nose & Throat it was evident that she was losing hearing on her right side. At this point, she was fitted with a ReSound hearing device, which provided the catalyst to a new and improved hearing.

    The first thing Regina noticed was the indefinite sound she had been making whilst emptying the dishwasher, completely unaware of the noise she was making!

    “I mean, the detail that I can hear now it’s like, Whoa, I didn’t realize I was making that much noise. I need to be quieter!”

    Treated with professional care, Regina received a comprehensive hearing assessment with Dr. Debra Hamila.

    “I just love, love, love Dr. Hamila, she is such a professional and loving person. I was so impressed with the office and what she did with the ReSound, I just love her.”

    Like many others, it takes years for people to realize they have a hearing problem. Regina described this moment as life-changing.

    “You don’t realise you’re walking with a rock in your shoe until you’re able to hear again. Especially now I’m a full-time Grammy Nanny, I can hear so much more and it has enriched my life incredibly.”

    What advice would you give to someone who is deliberating on taking the first step towards better hearing?

    “My advice to them would be to have a hearing test. Especially as we age our hearing goes down. It’s really unfortunate that people carry their pride and are not willing to learn to walk with the rock in their shoe. You don’t realise you’re waking with a rock in your shoe until you’re able to hear again.”

    Regina is one of many patients who has been impacted by our audiological services and we are proud to have been able to provide the tool towards better hearing and a lifetime of many more memories.