Vertigo - A guide to Hearing Loss

This condition is characterised by dizziness, nausea, vomiting and a feeling that the world is spinning around you. An attack of vertigo can be short-lived but these can recur in different situations.

It is NOT a fear of heights despite widespread belief. The dizzy feeling experienced when you look down from a great height is more likely a result of a phobia (‘acrophobia’).

An attack of vertigo can last from a few minutes to as long as 24 hours. Some attacks are mild but others can confine the sufferer to their house or even their bed.

In most cases this is a short term condition but there are some cases where the person has to cope with it on a long term basis.

Causes of vertigo

Vertigo is basically a problem with the balance mechanism within the inner ear.

Your inner ear contains a system of fluid filled tubes called the ‘labyrinth’which controls balance, movement and the ability to change direction. This is a delicate system which functions very well but can be disrupted by any number of causes although the main one is a viral or bacterial infection such as labyrinthitis.

Vertigo can occur as a symptom of another medical condition, for example arthritis or a problem with the circulation system of the body. The main causes of vertigo are:

  • Labyrinthitis
  • Meniere’s Disease
  • Head injury
  • Excessive drug or alcohol use
  • Ear infection (middle ear)
  • Side effects of certain types of medication
  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Tinnitus
  • Brain tumour

Symptoms of vertigo

The obvious ones are spinning (the world around you moves but you are static), nausea and vomiting, light-headedness and problems with trying to balance.

Headaches are another aspect although these tend to happen occasionally.

Severe anxiety or a panic attack can occur as a result of this as the person dreads each attack especially if they increase in severity over time. If you suffer from vertigo then you will find that your experience of this will differ from someone else’s.

Treatment for vertigo

The best action to take is to sit down and try and stay calm. Do not attempt to drive or perform any activity which requires a high degree of concentration and/or co-ordination. If you are able to then find a dark room and sit in there until the attack passes. Your GP will prescribe a suitable course of treatment depending on the cause of your vertigo. For example, if your condition is caused by a bacterial infection then antibiotics can help although these are not usually prescribed for a viral infection.

If these are short-term attacks then medication or steroids can help. Anti-sickness medication will deal with the nausea and vomiting as can reducing salt levels in your diet and learning to relax. Surgery is an option with long term attacks but this is usually seen as a last resort. Your GP will be able to discuss this further with you.

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