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Balance System Disorders

The scope of this page includes balance system disorders in both pediatric and adult populations.

See the Balance System Disorders Evidence Map for summaries of the available research on this topic.

A functioning balance system allows a person to move through the environment without falling and to be aware of one's physical position in relation to gravity. The human balance system is complex and includes input from and coordination of three sensory systems: vestibular, visual, and somatosensory. Disturbances to one or more of these systems may result in a balance system disorder, which may have a negative impact on balance and/or cause symptoms such as dizziness.

The term dizziness is nonspecific and can refer to a range of symptoms, such as lightheadedness or vertigo (dizziness with a sensation of movement). Symptoms of balance system disorders can cause a person considerable discomfort and inconvenience and place limitations on activities of daily living (Ten Voorde, van der Zaag-Loonen, & van Leeuwen, 2012) and can increase fall risk (Graafmans et al., 1996; O'Loughlin, Boivin, Robitaille, & Suissa, 1994; Rubenstein, 2006).

Assessment and management of balance system disorders and their symptoms is an interdisciplinary endeavor, at times involving audiology, cardiology, neurology, neuro-opthalmology, neurotology, occupational therapy, otolaryngology, otology, physical therapy, and psychology as well as medical intervention by a primary care provider. Audiologists may interact with individuals of all ages who complain of dizziness and/or imbalance.

Content Disclaimer: The Practice Portal, ASHA policy documents, and guidelines contain information for use in all settings; however, members must consider all applicable local, state and federal requirements when applying the information in their specific work setting.