Symptoms Of Balance Disorder You Shouldn’t Ignore

symptoms of balance disorder

Balance disorders or impairment of your vestibular system can leave you feeling dizzy – even a simple thing like walking can become difficult because of the balance issues it causes. So how can you tell whether you are just simply tired from a long day or if you have a balance disorder?

Balance Disorders: What’s Causing The Ear Imbalance?

Your body’s inner ear and brain together work to maintain your balance and your eye movements. If they are damaged as a result of an injury, disease, or aging, you may end up with issues with your balance – known as balance disorders or vestibular disorders. Balance disorders can have multiple causes and symptoms, too, will vary accordingly. Some of the most common balance disorders are1:

  • Vertigo
  • Labyrinthitis or inflammation/infection linked to upper respiratory infections like flu
  • Mal de Debarquement syndrome experienced typically after sea travel
  • Perilymph fistula after a head injury or physical exertion or major air pressure changes like that after scuba diving
  • Vestibular neuronitis due to a nerve inflammation caused by a virus
  • Ménière’s disease, a condition whose origins are still largely unknown

Other causes of balance issues include2:

  • Multiple sclerosis can cause changes in how the brain receives signals from your inner ear
  • Migraines too can interfere with the signaling
  • Thyroid problems can sometimes affect the normal function of your vestibular system
  • Diabetes – a side effect could be a balance issue or dizziness
  • Blood flow issues from a cardiac arrhythmia or low blood pressure problem

Regardless of the cause of your balance disorder, there are some typical symptoms of the problem.


Dizziness Or Vertigo

If you feel like the room or you are moving, spinning, or whirling when there is no actual movement, that’s a classic sign of vertigo. You may experience this even when you are sitting still. Certain positions or certain movements may trigger this sensation. You may also feel dizzy – as if you are floating, rocking, or being pulled or heavily weighed down in one direction. Some complain of lightheadedness – another mark of dizziness or vertigo.3

Imbalance, Sensation Of Falling, And Postural Changes

You may find it hard to walk and could end up constantly stumbling. Turning or walking in a straight path may both present a challenge. A change in the walking surface too could interfere with your balance. You could feel clumsy and uncoordinated. This might cause some visible changes in how you walk and move. See if you notice any of these new habits4:

  • Trouble keeping an upright posture
  • Head tilted to one side
  • Holding/touching something while standing
  • Holding/touching head when seated
  • Looking down to find the ground properly
  • Muscular/joint pain as a result of imbalance issues

Lightheadedness That Makes You Feel Faint

A balance disorder can also cause you to feel faint or like you are floating.5 The disequilibrium linked to the problem is what causes children with balance disorders to say they feel “woozy” or unsteady.6

Blurred Vision And Problems With Depth Perception And Focusing

The nerve endings at the back of your eye contain light-sensitive cells that signal the brain via your optic nerve. This helps your body maintain balance by aiding depth perception – your assessment of how far away a particular object or person is. If you have a balance disorder, you may find you have issues like these7:

  • Images appearing blurry or bouncing when you move your head – this impedes reading and writing
  • Depth perception problems that impact eye-foot and hand-eye coordination
  • Involuntary eye movement
  • Sensitivity to lights – especially glare, flashing/moving/strobe lights. Bright computer screens and sunlight may also pose a problem
  • Discomfort when faced with any busy visual – this includes heavy traffic, crowded places, and busy patterns
  • Night blindness and trouble walking in the dark8

Auditory Signs Like Impaired Hearing Or Tinnitus

Depending on what’s causing your balance disorder, you may wind up with a hearing problem as well since the ear is such an integral part of the vestibular system. Here are other signs to watch for9:

  • Tinnitus is a common complaint, so look out for any kind of buzzing sound of ringing in either one or both ears
  • Hearing your own voice or self-generated sounds amplified, a condition called autophony
  • Aural fullness
  • Loss of hearing
  • Sensitivity to very loud sounds
  • Sounds induced imbalance or dizziness/falling linked to sound, a condition called vestibular hyperacusis or Tullio’s phenomenon

Confusion Or Disorientation

Balance disorders can also be disorienting. It can make it hard to judge where the ground is visually and even cause you to become confused. If you have issues like losing your sense of location or time, it could be a sign of a balance disorder.10


Nausea, Vomiting, And Motion Sickness

Difficulty coping with walking and movement as well as all that dizziness and vertigo can make you feel nauseous or like throwing up/vomiting. Some people develop motion sickness or motion intolerance.11

Changes In Heart Rate And Blood Pressure

A balance disorder could also cause your blood pressure and heart rate to change. If you feel your heart is beating faster or your blood pressure has gone up, do look to check for other symptoms of a vestibular disorder.12


Fear, Anxiety, And Panic From Sudden Onset Of Symptoms

Vestibular disorders can bring on bouts of dizziness, fatigue, and lightheadedness unannounced. This can be unsettling or downright terrifying and make you anxious. That anxiety and fear can, in turn, worsen your dizziness and other symptoms of vertigo or a balance disorder. You may even experience panic attacks where you tremble, feel dizzy, are nauseous or short of breath, and sweat profusely.13

Fatigue And Depression From Living With The Disorder

Living with a balance disorder can take its toll on your self-esteem and mood. The uncertainty of the symptoms can disrupt your life and even make it a challenge to get through the day. This becomes both mentally and emotionally exhausting, in addition to wearing you down physically. Which is why some people who live with the disorder for lengths of time can wind up with symptoms of fatigue and even depression.14


Concentration Issues, Forgetfulness, And Memory Lapses

Some people with balance disorders also notice that they become a little more forgetful and have lapses in short-term memory. You may find it harder to concentrate and pay attention for lengths of time and are distracted more easily than before. Understanding instructions or directions may also present a challenge. If you find it difficult to follow or comprehend a conversation, particularly where the ambient noise or movement is distracting you from the discussion, it may be due to a balance disorder.15