If you have sensory processing differences, your vestibular system (both the sensory organs in your inner ear responsible for your sense of equilibrium and balance, and the complex brain connections associated with them) might need a little extra attention and care.
Here are some symptoms of vestibular issues (from the Vestibular Disorders Association):
- Dizziness: A sensation of lightheadedness, faintness, or unsteadiness.
- Imbalance: Unsteadiness or loss of equilibrium that is often accompanied by spatial disorientation.
- Vertigo: A rotational, spinning component, and is the perception of movement, either of the self or surrounding objects.
- Brain fog: When the brain is dedicating a great deal of energy to maintain equilibrium and stay steady, activities such as recalling details or short-term memory may become more difficult, and thinking might seem “slow”.
- Tinnitus: Abnormal noise perceived in one or both ears or in the head. May be intermittent or continuous and can be experienced as a ringing, hissing, whistling, buzzing, or clicking sound and can vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal.
- Hearing loss: Reduction in the ability to hear sounds is a common symptom of many vestibular disorders. When VeDA conducted a patient poll, over two thirds reported that they had hearing loss in one or both ears.
- Vision impairment: The link between the vestibular system and vision, vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR), is described in detail with information on evaluation, treatment, coping strategies, and potential solutions for vision correction, including glasses and contact lenses.
- Nausea: The feeling of being nauseated.
- Cognitive changes: Difficulty thinking, paying attention/concentrating, recalling basic facts (such as your own phone number), short-term memory loss, etc.
- Psychological changes: Due to the unpredictable nature of symptoms and the chronic nature of most disorders, vestibular patients tend to suffer from anxiety and/or depression.
- Motion sickness: Symptoms appear when the central nervous system receives conflicting messages from the visual system and the vestibular system in the inner ears.
One way to figure out if/how much you may need to target your vestibular system, is to start with one or more of these self-assessments:
- The Dizziness Symptom Profile
- Situational Vertigo Questionnaire
- Vestibular Activities and Participation (VAP) Questionnaire
- Activities-Specific Balance Confidence (ABC) Scale
- Visual Vertigo Analogue Scale
Another way is to give yourself a little physical test. Please use extreme caution when attempting these activities. They may bring on or intensify symptoms of dizziness, unsteadiness, and/or nausea. Be sure you are near a wall, countertop, or chair so you can easily catch yourself if you lose your balance. And if in doubt, make sure you consult a doctor or other medical professional before attempting any of the following. If you feel comfortable to attempt some physical tests, here are some ideas to get you started:
- Stand on one foot (eyes opened and eyes closed)
- Stand heel to toe (eyes opened and eyes closed)
- Walk heel-to-toe along a line
- Walk backward along a line
- Step over and around low-lying obstacles (such as large sponges, beanbags, or balled-up pairs of socks)
- Tilt and turn your head in various directions while in different positions (sitting, standing, lying down, kneeling, etc.) – be careful or skip this one entirely if you have neck problems
- Attempt to keep your balance on a moving or uneven surface, such as a large exercise ball or fitness balance pad