Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is an inner ear disorder most common in people above the age of 50 but can happen to anyone. If you have ever had the sensation of vertigo or being dizzy and off-balance, it is probably because there is something wrong with your inner ear. BPPV is often described by each part of its name:
- Benign: it’s not life-threatening or too serious, but it can definitely be annoying.
- Paroxysmal: it only lasts a short amount of time, but can come up quickly without notice.
- Positional: certain movements or positions can cause the vertigo sensation.
What Causes BPPV?
Inside your ear, there are lots of small crystals made up of calcium carbonate. Similar to the liquid in your ear that helps you keep your balance, these ear rocks tell your brain the position and movement of your head relative to gravity. Sometimes these crystals can move around in your ear and end up in places they shouldn’t be. This is more common in older people as parts of the ear weaken, but can also be caused by a head injury in younger people.
Ear rocks are heavy relative to other parts of the ear, so if they are moving chances are they’ll be clumping together at the lowest point. This clumping could be inside some of the canals or ducts deep in the ear, where the fluid that helps track gravity and keep balance is. If the ear rocks make it there, it can cause the fluid to keep moving even after you stop moving, making it feel dizzy as if you are spinning.
Quick movements, especially of the head, can cause this sensation to happen.
One option of treatment is to just wait it out. Symptoms of BPPV usually last from 1-2 months and, as mentioned before, are not life-threatening. However, most people will go see a doctor who can then run tests to confirm that it is BPPV. Once diagnosed, there are short, in-office treatments that work to shift around the ear rocks to a place that will not cause trouble.
In rare or extreme cases, surgery might be required to alleviate symptoms. This surgery involves plugging some parts of the ear so that the ear rocks are not able to move around.
For most, surgery will not be necessary and there are some home remedies to temporarily hide symptoms. These include moving the head slowly (especially when you first get up in the morning), avoiding bending over to pick things up, and sleeping on the unaffected side with multiple pillows under your head.
As always, United Hearing is here to help you and your ears in the best way possible. Contact us if you have any questions or concerns regarding your hearing health!