Stop the Spinning

A guide to common diseases of the inner ear

Meniere's Disease

Menier's disease occurs when a buildup of ear fluid creates pressure that interferes with
inner-ear workings. Not only does this cause vertigo, but also hearing loss, a feeling of fullness,
and ringing, buzzing or roaring noises in the ear. The problem usually starts in just one ear,
but may spread to both.

Treatment for this is limited, and symptoms may persist for years.


An ear infection of inflamation damages the inner-ear structure, causing a feeling of constant
imbalance, with mild to severe vertigo and possible hearing loss. The problems usually go
away when the infection does.

Treatment usually consists of antihistamines and or decongestants such as Meclizine (Antivert),
which are used as long as the symptoms persist.

Perilymph Fistula

An abnormal opening in the ear that leaks fluid, it can be caused by flying in a non-pressurized
plane, scuba diving, whiplash or a blow to the head. Symptoms include ringing in the ear,
hearing loss, headaches, and coordination and gait problems.

Treatment usually involves a referral to an ear specialist.

Benign Positional Vertigo

This occurs when tiny calcium crystals sheer off from membranes and float in the inner-ear
fluid. In people under the age of fifty, the crystals are usually loosened by whiplash, a blow to the
head or a bacterial infection is probably to blame.

Symptoms may not start for days or weeks after a blow — which needn't be a hard one — so
victims don't always connect them with the injury or infection. When the head is moved in
certain ways, the crystals, called canaliths, irritate the ear's sensory receptors, causing that
spinning sensation. Lying down, turning to one side, sitting up and looking up or to the side are
motions likely to cause dizziness; in the most wretched cases, any head movement at all brings
it on. The vertigo seldom lasts more than 30 seconds, but the nausea and weakness that follow
can linger for hours or days.

Treatment usually involves avoidance of the movement that causes the vertigo. Antihistamines
such as Meclizine (Antivert) are also used. There are also special maneuvers designed to move
the canaliths out of the way so they can no longer cause symptoms.

© 2005, Northwest Primary Care Incorporated