Balance Testing: Preparing For The Audiologist

If you're having trouble with dizziness or your balance, you'll want to see an audiologist -- a doctor who specializes in hearing and balance. An audiologist will be able to assess your balance issues and any related hearing problems using a variety of tests and measuring methods. The doctor will then be able to recommend a treatment plan based on your personal symptoms and diagnosis.

Make sure you have plenty of information ready to give your audiologist before your appointment to help the doctor make an accurate assessment.

Information to Give Your Audiologist

  • A full description of your problem. Tell your doctor exactly what you're experiencing, including how often you feel dizzy, where you are when you have symptoms, which way a room seems to spin if it feels like the room is rotating, how often you have symptoms, and any ear or hearing problems you're having.
  • Any falls you've experienced. Let your doctor know when and how you fell and any symptoms you were experiencing immediately before, during and after the fall.
  • Any medications you're taking, including the dosages. Vertigo and balance problems are common side effects of many medications.

Balance Testing

  • Sensory Organization Test (SOT): This test uses computers to help assess your balance problem by measuring the sensory input to your eyes and your equilibrium while you stand on a firm surface and a surface that tilts. You'll be asked to open and close your eyes at various times during the testing.
  • Eye movement testing. Audiologists test your eye movements because they can give important information about how your inner ear and nerves in your brain are working. There are two methods audiologists use to test eye movements:
    • Electronystagmography (ENG): During this test, the doctor will place electrodes near your eyes and spray cold water or air into your ears, then measure how your eyes move in response to the stimulation. Then, the doctor will spray warm water or air into your ears and record your eyes' responses to that. You might also be asked to track flashing lights or moving pictures.
    • Videonystagmography (VNG): This test measures your eye movements through infrared cameras that you'll look through during the procedure. Your doctor will ask you to follow objects that jump, stand still or move back and forth. You may be asked to move your head and body in different positions to check for abnormal eye movements. The last part of the test involves cold and then warm water or air being gently pushed into your ears, much like electronystagmography.
  • Hearing tests. Your audiologist will likely perform a hearing assessment in addition to balance tests, even if you're not experiencing hearing loss. The hearing tests can help detect inner ear problems that could be interfering with your balance. 

Talk to your general practitioner first if you're not sure whether an audiologist is necessary or if your insurance requires a referral. Or, call a local audiologist, like the Hearing Professionals, for more information.