Bilateral Vestibular Hypofunction

I’m going in once a week for vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) now. Today was brutal. Lots of balancing exercises with head movements that weren’t too bad with my eyes open, but almost impossible once I closed my eyes.

It turns out I’m dealing with bilateral vestibular hypofunction, which means my vestibular system (inner ears) aren’t working in terms of balance because my brain stopped trusting the information it was sending back in late January/early February for some reason (they think it was probably because of my temporary bout with BPPV).  Since it wasn’t being used much anymore, my vestibular system kinda stopped working (or is barely working), and by early March my brain was overcompensating so much to make up for the lack of information from my  inner ears that it started screwing with my cognitive functions, which in turn triggered short term memory loss, confusion, panic, and mental and physical exhaustion. So I wasn’t going nuts – but it would have been nice to have had this explained earlier (my Doctor didn’t really tell me anything other than my MRI was fine and I needed to go to physical therapy.  My therapist, on the other hand, got my medical records and explained everything that was happening to me as well as what we were going to do to fix it.  She rocks!)

The VRT forces my vestibular system to function again, my brain to relearn how to read the information it’s being sent, as well as coordinating my eye movement in relation to my head movement (that’s to fix the oscillopsia, which is when everything I see bounces up and down or side to side with head movement, walking, or when I hit a bump while driving. It’s one of the symptoms of  vestibular hypofunction and it’s why I hate driving so much–‘specially at night.)

Besides the VRT, I have exercises that I’m supposed to do at home every day that coordinate head movement with eye movement, and “balance tasks for vestibular system adaptation.”  All this really means is that I shake my head in different directions while trying to focus on a letter on an eye chart, and do balance exercises with my eyes open and then closed.  It’s also a lot harder than I expected.  Sadly I could have done all this about three months ago without even thinking about it – while now I have trouble standing up straight with my eyes closed.

My physical therapist also recommended using our Wii Fit board for additional balance exercises, and said that yard work is a very good form of therapy too.  I wonder how painting walls and installing hardwood floors ranks as therapy?

4 thoughts on “Bilateral Vestibular Hypofunction

  1. i also just got diagnose with
    BVH… and is hard for me i am just 20 years old finishing nursing school but resently stop because of my vertigo and unbalance… this actualy sucks for me because i feel like i cant do nothing with this… i mean i cant even drive!! how about you how you been feeling… has it gone away… Love the way you explain your experience so clearly.. 🙂

    • It does get better, although I didn’t believe it at first. But in order for it to get better, you need to start physical therapy. And once you start physical therapy, it may get worse before things begin to improve. Once I made it past that point, I was amazed at how much easier it was to think clearly, walk, and even trust my balance. It hasn’t fully gone away and probably never will either… but it’s under control and I have my life back.

  2. How are you feeling now, i am going through the same exact thing.
    Do crowds and busy places give you a hard time?
    How is the driving and has your oscilopsia gone away or does it just improve to the point it becomes a non factor once central compensation takes place and your brain retrains itself.

  3. Dear DC:

    I spent two weeks in the hospital first with severe BPPV. I could not stand up, had mind numbing migraines, double vision that lasted the first week until I received massive doses of steroids. Once that cleared up, I was sent to a skilled nursing facility for therapy and now out patient therapy. The tough part is this all began at the gym working out. First they thought it was pressure from a blood vessel pressing on my 8th nerve, but my vestibular therapist thinks it’s nerve damage from stress. He says that they damage can never be repaired, but that the brain will learn to compensate. I can drive again, but it’s fatiguing and if I have one good day, it’s followed by a day where I feel rotten. I can tell you all that it gets better, but I can’t say of I will ever be the same, or if I will ever be able to work out as I did. Stay positive, do your exercises and follow your therapist’s directions.

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