One in three adults over the age of 65 fall every year. Many times, this leads to long hospital stays, disability and long-term care placement. Many reasons exist for why seniors fall, but one reason is problems with their inner ear.
Our ears are comprised of three parts. The outer ear funnels noise into our ears. The middle ear has three bones that vibrate and transmit sound waves. Lastly our inner ear has fluid, a semicircular bone, and tiny hairs to continue sending sound waves to our brain to interpret. The fluid in the inner ears also tells our brain where our body is in space and how to balance ourselves.
A few years ago, my dad said he felt like there was a treadmill moving under his feet. His primary doctor did some tests but that did not resolve Dad’s problems. As a geriatric nurse I encouraged Dad to see an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor. About 40% of seniors who have balance problems have calcium crystals which normally float in the inner ear; get stuck in the semicircular bone causing dizzy spells. The doctor does a head maneuver adjustment that knocks those calcium crystals loose.
Some people will feel worse after this procedure and will need someone to drive them and stay with them a couple of days. Sometimes the procedure needs to be repeated. After a couple of weeks of having the procedure done by an ENT, my Dad no longer had vertigo and I had increased peace of mind about him not falling. Other problems with the inner ear can also include inflammation or infection. Take all vertigo seriously and keep investigating to find a solution so your loved one can stay home safely.
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