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Balance System Disorders

It is estimated that approximately 40% of the population in the United States will experience some form of dizziness or balance difficulty over the course of a lifetime (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders [NIDCD], 2014). The true incidence and prevalence of balance system disorders in adults and children are unknown. This may be due, in part, to the wide range of symptoms attributable to balance disorders, the underlying cause(s), the length or frequency of the disorder, and the varied diagnostic techniques used for detection.


An epidemiological study conducted in the United States using data from the 2001-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) suggests that 35% of adults aged 40 years or older—approximately 69 million Americans—demonstrate some form of vestibular dysfunction when tested with a postural metric (Agrawal, Carey, Della Santina, Schubert, & Minor, 2009). A 2008 Balance and Dizziness Supplement to the U.S. National Health Interview Survey (Neuhauser et al., 2005) expressed that symptom reports of dizziness and imbalance in adults (within the past year) increased with age (Ward, Agrawal, Hoffman, Carey, & Santina, 2013). Additional population-based studies found that 30% of adults aged 65 years and older experience some form of dizziness (Colledge, Wilson, Macintyre, & MacLennan, 1994), and 24% of adults aged 72 years and older reported symptoms of dizziness lasting at least 1 month (Tinetti, Williams, & Gill, 2000).

Statistics for balance system disorders can vary by type of disorder and how long it lasts. According to the NIDCD, 4% of adults—8 million Americans—reported a chronic problem with balance, and an additional 1.1% (2.4 million) reported a chronic problem with dizziness (NIDCD, 2005). An additional study reported a 12-month prevalence of vestibular vertigo in adults to be roughly 5% and an incidence to be 1.4% (Neuhauser, 2007). Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), the most commonly reported vestibular disorder, accounted for approximately 50% of cases reported in older adults (von Brevern et al., 2007). Based on the study criteria, these authors reported a 1-year BPPV prevalence of 1.6% and a lifetime prevalence of 2.4%. The prevalence increased to 3.4% for individuals 60 years of age or older (von Brevern et al., 2007).


Dizziness and balance disorders can also occur in children (Rine, 2009). Dizziness and vertigo in the pediatric population is estimated to occur in 8%-18% of children (O'Reilly, Grindle, Zwicky, & Morlet, 2011; Niemensivu, Pyykkö, Wiener-Vacher, & Kentala, 2006). In samples of school-age children, 15% had experienced at least one episode of vertigo in the previous year (Humphriss & Hall, 2011; Russell & Abu-Arafeh, 1999). The reported incidence of dizziness varies in relation to the research methods utilized for accumulating data and the clinic where the patients were evaluated. Emerging data suggest that significant associations exist between children diagnosed with balance disorders and reports of hearing loss, syncope, and headache (O'Reilly et al., 2010).

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