Inner ear disorders stem from abnormalities, infections or inflammation of the cochlea and vestibular system – the innermost areas of the ear and connecting systems. The cochlea receives and interprets vibrations from auditory ossicles by converting the vibrations into nerve impulses. The brain receives these signals and recognizes them as sound.
When infection or injury causes inflammation, hearing and balance are impaired. Some people notice diminished hearing. Others report dizzy spells, or feeling like they are spinning (vertigo). Some people have multiple, seemingly disconnected symptoms.
The vestibular system helps people stand, move about without losing their balance, and coordinate complex movements. It does this by allowing nerve signals to move efficiently between the eyes, muscles, hands and the inner ear.
Anyone can develop inner ear disorders, but you are at higher risk if you fall into one of the groups below:
- Infants still developing their natural immunity
- People who contract (or are exposed to) certain communicable diseases, such as chickenpox, mumps, flu or pneumonia
- Anyone with an autoimmune disorder. Women are more likely than men to develop autoimmune disorders. Children and older adults have fewer autoimmune related inner ear disorders.
- Children under the age of three who frequently have ear infections
- Bottle fed babies and children who regularly use a pacifier
- Smokers and people frequently exposed to second-hand smoke
Symptoms vary widely depending on the cause of the inner ear disorder. Patients report:
- Balance and coordination issues
- Spinning or floating sensations
- Mild to moderate confusion
- Vision disorders – blurred, double-vision, or “jumping vision” – the inability to maintain focus
- Pressure in the ears
- Transient pain – often mistaken for pain in the lower jaw or a toothache
- Diminished hearing
- Irritability – especially in young children
- Ringing of the ears (tinnitus)
- Lethargy or excessive tiredness
Common inner ear disorders are often caused by ear infections and fluid build-up. Bacteria, fungi and viruses are usually the root cause of an infection. Other causes include injury or structural deficiencies and anomalies like the ones below.
- Damage to hair cells (Tinnitus – ringing in the ears) is caused by internal and external stimuli. Damaged cells send a continuous signal to the brain for interpretation rather than just responding to auditory stimuli – such as someone speaking or music playing. Infection, exposure to loud noises, long-term use of certain drugs and eardrum perforations can cause hair cell damage.
- Tumors and growths on nerves and other structures may cause inner ear disorders.
- Excessive fluid build up.
- Prolonged drug use (Ototoxicity) may cause damage to your internal ear structures, resulting in hearing loss, ringing in the ears and balance issues.
- Active infections in other parts of the body, including upper respiratory infections, may spread to your inner ear.
- Barometric and water pressure, from swimming or flying, can damage your ear. Barotrauma may lead to hearing loss and balance issues.
- Autoimmune disorders.
- Pressure on the brainstem effecting cranial nerve XIII (vestibulocochlear nerve) from misaligned vertebra
Through upper cervical care, we help relieve the pressure put on the inner ear as a result of many disorders. To schedule a consultation to see how upper cervical care can help you, please contact us today.