Causes of Dizziness

  • Dizziness, vertigo and disequilibrium are common symptoms reported by adults.
  • They are all symptoms that can result from a PERIPHERAL VESTIBULAR DISORDER (a dysfunction of the balance organs of the inner ear) or CENTRAL VESTIBULAR DISORDER (a dysfunction of one or more parts of the central nervous system that help process balance and special information).

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  • DIZZINESS = is a sensation of light-headedness, faintness, or unsteadiness.
  • VERTIGO= has a rotational, spinning component, and is the perception of movement, either of the self or surrounding objects.
  • DISEQUILIBRUIM= simply means unsteadiness, imbalance, or loss of equilibrium that is often accompanied by spatial disorientation.
  • The body maintains balance with sensory information from 3 systems:


  1. Vision
  2. Proprioception (touch sensors in feet, trunk, and spine)
  3. Vestibular system (inner ear)

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Vestibular dysfunction is most commonly caused by head injury, aging, and viral infection.  Other illnesses, as well as genetic and environmental factors, may also cause or contribute to vestibular disorders.

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Causes of dizziness related to vestibular system dysfunction are listed below:

  • Acoustic Neuroma: benign tumour growing on the vestibule-cochlear nerve.
  • Autoimmune inner ear disease: occurs when the defence capabilities of a mal-functioning immune system harm the cells of the body that affects the ear. Specific diagnoses include Cogan’s syndrome, Wegener’s granulomatosis, systemic lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis, among others.
  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV): is a condition resulting from loose otoconia (small crystals of calcium carbonate) that collect within a part of the inner ear.
  • Cervicogenic dizziness: is a clinical syndrome of disequilibrium and disorientation in patients with neck problems that include cervical trauma, cervical arthritis, and others.
  • Cholesteatoma: is a skin growth that occurs in the middle ear behind the eardrum.
  • Enlarged vestibular aqueduct: houses the fluid-filled endolymphatic duct, which is connected to the endolymphatic sac. The function of the duct and the sac are affected when the aqueduct is larger than normal.
  • Labyrinthitis and vestibular neuritis: are inflammations caused by a viral infection that can result in damage to hearing and vestibular function (labyrinthitis) or damage to vestibular function only (vestibular neuritis).
  • Mal de débarquement: is a sensation of rocking or movement that persists after a sea cruise or other form of travel.
  • Méniere’s disease: or primary endolymphatic hydrops, involves abnormalities in quantity, composition, or pressure of the endolymph (one of the fluids within the inner ear). It is a progressive condition.
  • Migraine associated vertigo (MAV): is typical characterized by head pain with symptoms associated with vestibular impairment such as dizziness, motion intolerance, spontaneous vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, tinnitus, imbalance and spatial disorientation.
  • Otitis media: is a bacterial infection of the middle ear and Meningitis is a bacterial infection of the brain covering that may spread to the inner ear.
  • Otosclerosis: is an abnormal growth of bone of the middle ear that prevents structures within the middle inner ear from working properly.
  • Ototoxicity: is caused by exposure to certain drugs or chemicals that damage the inner-ear nerve hair cells or the vestibule-cochlear nerve.
  • Perilymph fistula: caused by injury, is a tear or defect in the oval or round window, which is small, thin membranes that separate the middle ear from the fluid-filled inner ear.
  • Superior semi-circular canal dehiscence: is an opening in the bone overlying the uppermost semi-circular canal within the inner ear.
  • Secondary endolymphatic hydrops: involves abnormalities in quantity, composition, or pressure of the endolymph. Vascular compression of the vestibular nerve is an irritation of the vestibular portion of the vestibule-cochlear nerve by a blood vessel. 

Hair cells in Cochlea

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Book an appointment by contacting either of our two Pretoria-based Audiology practices today for hearing problems.