Amreen Khania, NP

Spatial disorientation can occur at people's lives at any moment. However, when these episodes become frequent, whether lasting only for a few minutes or even days and weeks, it could be a primary sign of a vestibular dysfunction. While either accompanied or not by other symptoms, these episodes could indicate a primary sign of a vestibular disorder in addition to an array of cardiovascular, neurological, metabolic, vision, and psychological problems. Having a professional accessing these signs and analyzing the complexities of each individual is critical for the outcome of the treatment proposed.

- FACT -

People with vestibular disorders can suffer from poor memory, difficulty reading, poor concentration and can develop anxiety due to the constant unsteadiness.

The following is a list of symptoms that have been reported by people with vestibular disorders. Not all symptoms will be experienced by every person, and other symptoms are possible.

Vertigo can be described as a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, illustrated particularly with looking down from a great height or spinning, It is, commonly caused by disease affecting the inner ear or the vestibular nerve

Dizziness and Vertigo

Feeling faint, woozy, weak or unsteady. Dizziness is a broad term used to characterize a wide number of sensations. It is also a very common reason adults visit their doctors. When frequent, dizziness spells can significantly affect your life. While very disruptive, dizziness rarely signals a life-threatening condition.Treatment of dizziness depends on the cause and your symptoms. 

Common Symptoms

  • Spinning or whirling sensation; a feeling the person or world moving when it is not (vertigo)

  • Symptoms can be present while sitting still, in specific positions, or with movement

  • Lightheaded, floating, or rocking sensation (dizziness)

  • Sensation of being heavily weighted or pulled in one direction

Good balance is often taken for granted. Most people don’t find it difficult to walk across a gravel driveway, transition from walking on a sidewalk to grass, or get out of bed in the middle of the night without stumbling. However, with impaired balance such activities can be extremely fatiguing and sometimes dangerous.

Balance and Spatial Disorientation

Common Symptoms

  • Imbalance, stumbling, difficulty walking straight or when turning

  • Clumsiness or difficulty with coordination

  • Difficulty maintaining straight posture; head may be tilted to the side

  • Tendency to look downward to confirm the location of the ground

  • Tendency to touch or hold onto something when standing, or to touch or hold the head while seated

  • Sensitivity to changes in walking surfaces or footwear

  • Difficulty walking in the dark

  • Muscle and joint pain (due to difficulty balancing)


Common Symptoms

  • Trouble focusing or tracking objects with the eyes; objects or words on a page seem to jump, bounce, float, blur, or may appear doubled

  • Discomfort from busy visual environments such as traffic, crowds, stores, and patterns

  • Sensitivity to light, glare, and moving © Vestibular Disorders Association ◦ ◦ Page 2 of 2 or flickering lights; fluorescent lights may be especially troublesome

  • Tendency to focus on nearby objects; increased discomfort when focusing at a distance

  •  Increased night blindness

  • Poor depth perception


Common Symptoms

  • Hearing loss; distorted, muffled, or fluctuating hearing

  • Tinnitus (ringing, roaring, buzzing, whooshing, or other noises in the ear)

  • Sensitivity to loud noises or environments that may increase symptoms of vertigo, dizziness, or imbalance

Cognitive and Psychological

Common Symptoms

  • Difficulty concentrating and paying attention, easily distracted

  • Forgetfulness and short-term memory lapses

  • Confusion, disorientation, and difficulty comprehending directions or instructions

  • Difficulty understanding conversations, especially when there is background noise or movement

  • Mental and/or physical fatigue out of proportion to activity

  • Anxiety, panic

  • Loss of self-reliance, self-confidence, and self-esteem

  • Depression

    (Note: these are not necessarily a direct effect of a vestibular problem, but commonly found along with vestibular problems.)

An inner ear disorder may be present even when there are no obvious or severe symptoms. It is important to note that most of these individual symptoms can also be caused by other unrelated conditions and should be discussed with a health professional.


Common Symptoms

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Sensation of being “hungover” or “seasick”

  • Motion sickness

  • Feeling of fullness in the ears

  • Sensitivity to pressure or temperature changes and wind currents

  • Ear pain

  • Headaches

  • Slurred speech

By The Vestibular Disorders Association, with contributions from Jeremy Hinton, DPT

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