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|What is Dizziness and How and Why it May Be Related to the Ear?|
"Dizziness" is a very general term that can involve any one or all of the following:
Only VERTIGO - i.e., a feeling of spinning or whirling - is specifically related to ear disease and/or the related central neurologic pathways. If you have true vertigo, it's important to see your doctor.
On the other hand, unspecific unsteadiness or a tendency to fall minimally involves ear disease.
HOW DO WE KEEP OUR BALANCE?
Maintaining one's balance involves three basic functions - referred to as the vestibular system:
If at any time, one of these functions is abruptly impaired, or two of these functions are generally impaired, balance is becomes very difficult.
Let's look at the functions involved:
WHY IS DIZZINESS COMMON IN THE ELDERLY?
Like hearing and aging, there is a general decline in sensory cells in the vestibular system as we get older; some studies suggest about a 40% reduction in the canals and 25% in the utricle and saccule. This is not a disease, but a normal aging process. With less balance input from the ears, maintaining balance is not as easy as when you were younger. Also, blood supply to the ears is poorer as we get older. Standing too quickly often produces unsteadiness, or turning the neck too abruptly may cause sudden dizziness.
It's important to not be afraid of dizziness. Yes, you may have to be more careful in your daily movements, but it's important to stay active. Our instincts tell us that when we feel dizzy, we should stop what we're doing, sit down, and close our eyes, but this is the wrong thing to do. If you feel dizzy, keep your eyes open, your feet on the ground, and steady yourself with a hand or arm. Wait for the dizziness to subside, then keep going.