The Diagnosis Conundrum: Why Dizzy Patients Struggle to Get Answers
Dizzy & Vertigo Institute
One of the biggest challenges we face in the vestibular community is overcoming the apprehension that dizzy patients develop over time when they aren’t given a solid answer to why they’re dizzy. It’s not uncommon for dizzy patients to bounce around between 5 or 6 general physicians, audiologists, ENTs, neurologists, chiropractors, and physical therapists in search of answers – never actually receiving the right diagnosis. This drawn-out process can be severely discouraging to dizzy patients. It causes many to lose hope in their chances of getting better. And in the worst-case scenario, they lose hope in the healthcare system to solve their dizziness problem. The simple answer to the dizziness diagnosis shortage is that there aren’t enough vestibular specialists out there. Naturally, though, it’s a little more complex than that.
Information and knowledge about inner ear dizziness are not well-dispersed throughout the entire healthcare community. Dizzy patients often come across doctors who “give it their best guess” and pass them along to another specialist. Moreover, vestibular specialists are trained to emphasize and dig further past the patient phrase, “I’m dizzy”. Dizziness is an umbrella term. It’s a starting point for a much deeper conversation between doctor and patient. Ultimately, dizziness can be more specifically described in these varying ways:
Walking on Clouds
Visual Disturbance/ Disorientation
Tendency to Fall
Hypersensitivity in Crowded or Busy Environments
A vestibular specialist wants their dizzy patient to drill in on these descriptors because it informs them of which vestibular disorders they need to test for. On top of this, the vast majority of healthcare professionals do not have all the high-tech, specialized equipment to diagnose and treat vestibular disorders. Rotational Chairs, Frenzel Goggles, cVEMP, oVEMP, vHIT, Computer Dynamic Posturography, virtual reality, etc… These are not pieces of equipment you’ll find at your general physician’s office.
Even though one in three people will experience vestibular dysfunction at some point in their life, the general population has no idea that there is even such a thing as the vestibular system. There’s very little public information out there about how our balance is internally regulated and furthermore, what could be wrong if their balance is off. When you have a toothache, you know to visit a dentist. When you break an arm, you know that you need to visit an orthopaedist. When you’re feeling constant imbalance, do you know that you should visit an Audiologist with Vestibular Specialty? Most likely not. Public education takes time, though. And there are resources out there ranging from the Mayo Clinic, VeDA, Johns Hopkins Medicine to the Dizzy & Vertigo Institute (and our Instagram memes that make the vestibular system approachable). There is hope for the future of this industry. And there is hope for dizzy patients who cannot seem to get answers. However, it starts with quality vestibular specialists.
What to look for in a vestibular specialist?
There are Vestibular Audiologists like us who specialize in diagnosing and treating dizziness and vertigo symptoms. Their focus is on the inner ear and the organs which create balance in humans. Vestibular specialists, most likely, won’t also outfit you with hearing aids. They focus on dizziness and that’s it. How do you know that your vestibular specialist is the real deal?
They talk with you for an extended period of time (at least 45 minutes) in order to discover your case history.
They perform a variety of scientific tests (not just a Dix Hallpike Test or VNG).
They work with a comprehensive team and do not hesitate to collaborate.
They are active in professional associations and knowledgeable about current research.
They explain your treatment options in great detail, making sure you understand how it works.
Don’t be afraid to ask them which tests they’ll perform on you and what equipment they use. If they don’t have any of the equipment I mentioned above, then they’re going to be seriously lacking in their ability to diagnose and treat the variety of vestibular disorders out there. The deficit in proper dizziness diagnoses out there is certainly concerning. But we hope to be a small beacon of light to help close this deficit. If you or someone you know experiences frequent dizziness episodes, please give us a call at (310) 954-2207 or schedule an appointment here. While the Dizzy & Vertigo Institute is located in Los Angeles, California we do have options for those of you in other states. We look forward to hearing from you!