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What is a Balance Disorder

The Tasmanian Balance Clinic

What is a Balance Disorder?

A balance disorder is a condition that makes you feel dizzy or unsteady. It can occur if you are standing, sitting or lying down……

What is a Balance Disorder?

A balance disorder is generally described as a condition affecting your brain or the inner ear, and it results from your vestibular (balance) system disturbances. The disturbances result in an uncomfortable state associated with a feeling of dizziness, unsteadiness, or lightheadedness (presyncope).

Although the majority of balance disorders result from problems within your brain and the inner ear, some may result from external chemicals or medications. These causative agents affect your body and may cause physical, psychological, and emotional torture.

The human body depends entirely on vision, muscles, bones, auditory, circulatory, and nervous systems signals to ensure you acquire a normal balance.

How does a Balance Disorder happen?

For easy understanding of the balance problems, it helps to recognize how the balance systems work. The three separate systems include:

  • The inner ear system. The labyrinth, which constitutes of bone and soft tissue, has semicircular canals and otolithic organs that maintain body balance and cochlea that boost healing.

These parts connect with vestibules that affect balance and equilibrium. When your head turns, the liquid in the semicircular canals initiates a message via the vestibulocochlear nerve to the brain, which leads to focus and movement response.

  • The musculo skeletal system. When you move, walk, or turn your head, the movement and pressure sensors in leg, neck, and feet joints convey a message to the brain initiating focus and balance.
  • The Eyes – Rods and cones system. Due to their sensitive nature, when the retina sense light, they send electric signals to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain interprets the signals, you can see images easily and achieve proper balance.

With the vestibular system working effectively, your body maintains balance. A slight interference in the systems above results to a balance disorder.


Early Signs and Symptoms of Balance Disorders

The signs often start at a low level and progress as the disorder advances. If you suspect you have a balance disorder, then it is wise to follow-up the primary signs.Early symptoms may (or may not) include:

  • Limited body balance or unsteadiness
  • A dizzy and floating sensation
  • Feeling like you are in motion or spinning
  • Mild or severe faintness

From the above symptoms, some people develop more complex signs. They may include:

  • Involuntary Eye movements
  • Discomfort when in hectic situations like traffic and shopping centres
  • Difficulty when staring any form of light
  • Reduced body movement control

Secondary Effects of Balance Disorders

Prolonged and ongoing symptoms impact the human body in variable and unpredictable ways. This may involve  physical, emotional and mental effects. Secondary effects are often overlooked as not related to the primary symptoms. A Balance Disorder may include the following impacts:

  • A feeling of anxiety and fear
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Fatigue that can lead to seizures
  • Variation in blood pressure
  • Delayed motions
  • Depression

Many balance problems will start without an obvious cause

Causes of Balance Disorders

Balance problems arise from many different occurrences and conditions. According to our specialist Audiologists, many balance problems will start without an obvious cause. The causes include:

  • Chronic infections of the middle ear
  • Neck, head and ear injuries
  • Migraines
  • Damage to nerves of the lower limbs (legs)
  • Cardiovascular disease that leads to reduced blood pressure
  • Damage due to reactions of medications on the inner ear (otitis media)
  • Seizure and neurological complications like Parkinson’s disease
  • Hyperventilation and psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety
  • Substance abuse such as alcohol


Other diseases that result in balance problems include:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). It attacks the inner ear, affecting the body balance. This results in a spinning sensation when turning or tilting your head.
  • Meniere’s disease. A rare infection that results in buzzing, ringing, and fluctuating hear loss.
  • Acoustic neuroma. A benign tumor that develops on the nerve that controls your balance and hearing. It is associated with ringing in the ear and hearing loss.
  • Vestibular neuritis. A viral infection that affects the inner ear, causing inflammation. This affect the nerves in your balance portion.
  • Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. This infection affects the auditory, vestibular, and facial nerves. It occurs as a single like infection and causes vertigo, facial weakness, and ear pain.


Everyone is susceptible to balance disorders, with the majority being adults. There has been a rise in cases and there has been considerable balance disorder research and development , particularly in the last 5 years. Scientists and medical practitioners and specialist audiologists are actively developing and implementing new strategies. They aim to understand the causes and symptoms of balance disorders, their pathologies, and association with vision, age, and other factors. If you are experiencing symptoms and now suspect you may have a balance disorder we recommend that you seek assessment before symptoms progress.

If you have symptoms or concerns about a possible Balance Disorder call now for an Assessment appointment with a specialist Audiologist. Phone (03) 6223 5444