Vestibular/Balance Disorders


Balance and Dizziness

Mass. Eye and Ear is one of the few hospitals in the world with experts and facilities specifically devoted to investigating and treating issues of balance and dizziness. With balance specialists at our Boston and Braintree locations, we've made it convenient to get the help you need.

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Click here to learn more about our Balance and Vestibular Center at Mass. Eye and Ear, Braintree.

The body maintains balance and position through a carefully orchestrated network – the vestibular system – the body’s navigation system. The inner ear is often implicated when balance goes awry, but the ear is only one part of the dynamic vestibular system that includes vision, muscles, joints and the brain – virtually the entire body. When any link in the chain is broken – including the inner ear – the result can be vertigo, dizziness, spinning and falls.

Patients suffering from balance problems and dizziness often face years of frustration before finding relief. On average, the patient coming to Mass. Eye and Ear for the first time has already seen nine different doctors and has been dealing with symptoms for three years.

Wall_2The world has a limited pool of medical professionals specializing in vestibular problems – and many of them work at Mass. Eye and Ear. The team includes otologists (ear doctors) neurologists (nerve doctors) and nurses, physical therapists and testing technologists, all experienced in the particular demands of dizziness and balance.

Coupled with some of the world’s most knowledgeable and experienced doctors and an ongoing program of scientific research Mass. Eye and Ear is at the leading edge of advances in diagnostic testing and treatment – and has developed a number of new testing and evaluation programs.

Common Vestibular Disorders

  • Meniere’s Disease: A degenerative disorder of the inner ear characterized by fluctuating and progressive sensoineural hearing loss and attacks of whirling vertigo that last from 20 minutes to 24 hours.
  • BPPV or Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo: Caused by tiny crystals that come loose from their normal inner ear location to trigger sudden brief whirling attacks triggered by position change, especially rolling over in bed or pitching the head forward or back.
  • Labyrinthitis and vestibular neuritis (also called vestibular neurolabyrinthitis): An inflammation of the inner ear or vestibular nerve fibers, possible viral, that causes rapid onset of disabling vertigo that recovers slowly over days to months.
  • Migraine associated dizziness: Up to 40 percent of those suffering from migraine headaches and many maigraineurs without headache will experience vestibular symptoms of imbalance and/or vertigo.

Additionally, other diseases and problems can result in vestibular symptoms, including tumors; degenerative nerve diseases like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis; problems in the brain; muscular and skeletal issues; and cardiovascular disorders. The investigation and examination protocol will include ruling out such problems and referring to specialists when needed to identify them.