Balance might be the most underrated thing a person can have. Most of us have a passable level of balance, which means we kind of forget how awful it would be if we didn’t. But if you were experiencing constant vertigo while crawling around on the floor unable to stand, you’d probably value your balance a bit more.
Which is why you should value your ears and their vestibular system – they are crucial players in your sense of balance. Working in conjunction with your vision and somatosensory system (a fancy way of saying nervous system), they have influence over your sense of balance and motor skills.
It’s quite disconcerting, then, that the inner ear deteriorates over time – as it takes your sense of balance with it.
But you don’t have to take this lying down! You can stand up assuredly on your own two feet without a single wobble or stumble, and use these exercises to keep the earth where it belongs – firmly beneath your feet.
1. The Epley Maneuver
The inner ear is covered in small calcium crystals. If one of these crystals is somehow knocked loose, it can wreak a bit of mayhem causing serious vertigo and dizziness in the form of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), which is a great name.
Fortunately, BPPV is the most treatable type of vertigo. Using the Epley Maneuver, you can rotate your head and body in certain ways that can coax the crystal to move from its precarious position. Here’s how to do it:
- Sit on the edge of your bed and turn your head slightly to the side that you think the vertigo is coming from. Place a pillow behind you on the bed.
- Quickly lie down on your back with your shoulders coming to rest on the pillow while your head is reclined. Maintain your head turn and wait 30 seconds.
- Turn your head slightly in the opposite direction and wait another 30 seconds.
- Now turn your head as far as you can in that direction, all the way into the bed if possible. Wait another 30 seconds and then sit up on that side.
Do this three times a day until your vertigo is gone, and if it stays gone for 24 hours, you should be set!
2. The Semont Maneuver
If the Epley doesn’t seem to work, then you might want to move on to the Semont. It’s similar, but a bit more physically intensive.
- Sit on the edge of the bed and turn your head slightly in the opposite direction that you feel the vertigo is coming from.
- Quickly lie down on the opposite side of your body in which your head is turned. Wait for 2-3 minutes.
- Quickly flip over and lie down on your other side while maintaining the position of your head. Wait another 30 seconds and slowly return to a sitting position.
Like the Epley, the Semont should be performed three times per day until a vertigo-less 24 hours has passed.
3. The Foster Maneuver
The Foster Maneuver is also known as “the half somersault.” This doesn’t have anything to do with ear crystals any more, and is a way of actively improving your balance, as well as getting rid of any vertigo.
- Kneel on the floor and look up at the ceiling.
- Lower your head to the floor with your arms outstretched and tuck your chin between your knees. Wait for 30 seconds.
- Turn your head in the direction of the affected ear and wait another 30 seconds.
- Get on all fours and quickly raise your head so it’s level with your back. Maintain your head turn and wait 30 seconds.
- Quickly raise your head toward the ceiling while still maintaining your turn. Slowly stand up.
In theory you should only have to do a single session (containing a few repetitions) a day to get the full benefit.
4. The Brandt-Daroff Exercise
The Brandt-Daroff is the Semont to the Foster’s Epley.
That is to say, it’s a slight variation on the Foster maneuver, in case Foster just isn’t doing it for you.
- Start in an upright, seated position and then quickly lie down on one side with your head tilted at a 45-degree angle.
- Remain in this position until the vertigo subsides.
- Move back into a seated position and repeat on the other side.
Perform multiple repetitions of the Brandt-Daroff Exercise at least twice per day until you’re no longer experiencing any vertigo.
5. Vestibular Rehabilitation
The first and only method on this list that you can’t do at home – vestibular rehabilitation involves a professional and a strict regime. This professional will help you in their office/clinic, as well as possibly prescribing some exercises to follow at home.
First we have habituation exercises. The vertigo-suffering patient identifies the action or actions that triggers their vertigo. Then, in a controlled and safe environment covered in lots of soft surfaces, the patient triggers their vertigo.
Theoretically they do it enough to overexpose their brains to the vertigo sensation. In time, the brain builds up a tolerance for this feeling, and will slowly be able to ignore it.
Gaze stabilization is another common exercise found in vestibular rehabilitation programs. This technique requires a person to fixate their eyes on an object while moving their head in different directions. This uses vision and somatosensation to exercise a damaged inner ear system.
If you struggle with vertigo or balance problems, your ears might just be the culprit. Some of these exercises may help, but seeing a professional is the best course of action.
If you think any balance or vertigo problems are tied to damage to your ears, then it might be a good idea to see a hearing specialist. To arrange a free consultation with a hearing specialist near you, fill out our form, and you’ll be able to book one for a time of your choosing.