What are ear crystals?
It might sound strange, and it might even be hard to believe, but your inner ears are full of crystals. And while they’re not Swarovski, they are far more valuable than you might think.
These crystals, called otoconia, are made mostly from calcium carbonate, and can be found in the part of the inner ear that is responsible for several important functions, including our sense of balance.
This part of the inner ear is also known as our vestibular system. In addition to helping us stay balanced, it also helps us understand spatial relationships in the world around us.
Usually, these tiny crystals are housed in an area of the vestibular system called the Otolith organs. These pouch-like organs are filled with a fluid similar to gelatin. When the otoconia crystals stay inside the Otolith organs, which is where they are supposed to be, your sense of balance should be normal, and you should feel normal, too.
Unfortunately, these crystals can move, and the effects are surprising.
What happens when your ear crystals are out of place?
Your body’s otoconia crystals can sometimes become dislodged from the Otolith organs, and move toward the semicircular canals of your inner ear. When this happens, you might feel an intense sense of dizziness.
Think for a moment about how small the organs in your inner ear must be, and how small the crystals in your ear are. Though these parts of your anatomy are quite little, the impact they can have on how you feel when even things are slightly out of place are enormous.
The dizziness you experience when your ear crystals have moved from your inner ear is called vertigo.
Vertigo is most easily defined as a sudden spinning sensation that is typically triggered by moving your head. The type of vertigo that occurs when your ear crystals have moved from the Otolith organs is called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Commonly, you’ll hear professionals call this type of vertigo BPPV. BPPV can be incredibly disruptive and uncomfortable, with those suffering from it describing it as though the entire world is spinning uncontrollably around them.
Why does BPPV happen?
Unfortunately, many athletes, older adults, and women who are post-menopausal are more prone to BPPV than other groups.
The most common causes for BPPV include head trauma (even mild cases); extended periods of time where the position of the head does not change; high intensity aerobic exercise; and time spent on bumpy roads, mountain bike trails or similar activities.
Researchers also believe that if you have a history of high blood pressure or cholesterol, a history of stroke, or a history of migraines, you are likely more susceptible to BPPV.
Unfortunately, once your ear crystals have dislodged from your Otolith organs, the likelihood of it happening again is greatly increased.
How is BPPV treated?
Of course, depending on factors like your age, the severity of your case, and your overall general health, your specific treatment plan will vary. At Colorado Ear Care, our goal is to provide you with the most thorough testing possible, so we can provide you with the most effective treatment recommendations available.
Luckily, most cases of BPPV can be treated without surgical intervention. Medicine isn’t even necessary! Our providers use a treatment called Canalith Repositioning to help you with your BPPV.
Canalith repositioning consists of a series of provider-led head movements that are done in order to move the dislodged crystals from your inner ear’s semicircular canals back into the Otolith organs where they’ll eventually be reabsorbed or dissolve altogether.
We can’t stress enough that this maneuver should be provider-led in order to be most effective.
95% of Colorado Ear Care’s BPPV patients report success after just 3-4 treatments, so if you or a loved one are among the many who suffer from this disorienting and debilitating condition, then we highly encourage you to call our offices to book an appointment.
Recurrences of BPPV are normal, but with the right provider by your side, relief is just a phone call away. Contact Colorado Ear Care today for BPPV assessment!