What is vestibular dysfunction?

Vestibular system

We need a properly working vestibular system for:

  • Movement reactions
  • Motion tolerance
  • Motor control
  • Postural alignment
  • Balance
  • Vision

How does the inner ear work?

Utricle and saccule – detect gravity and linear movement

Semicircular canals – detect rotational head movemen

Poor vestibular functioning could lead to:

  • Poor muscle tone: impaired gross motor and fine motor coordination
  • Gravitational insecurity: poor emotional security – feels vulnerable in unpredictable social circumstances
  • Movement that lack fluidity, accuracy and proper timing
  • Poor ability to follow moving objects
  • Poor balance
  • Under-reactive vestibular system – Tolerate enormous amounts of movement
  • Poor bilateral integration – Confuses left/right/directions/instructions
  • Over-reactive vestibular system – Gravitational insecure:  doesn’t play on jungle-gyms, swings, etc. Movement makes him uncomfortable

Signs and symptoms of vestibular dysfunction

  • Dizziness
  • Visual acuity problems
  • Poor spatial relationships:  skipping words/letters when reading and/or having a disorganized writing style
  • Nystagmus (involuntary, alternating, rapid and slow eye movements)
  • Difficulty walking in the dark
  • Hearing loss
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Motion sickness
  • Avoids or craves movement
  • Abnormal movement patterns and/or unsteady gait and/or clumsiness and/or poor posture
  • Headaches
  • Developmental delay e.g. slower achievement of riding a bike, swimming, hopping, et.c
  • Difficulty maintaining attention
  • Watching things spin or spinning himself
  • Inability to read or write cursive
  • Decrease auditory processing
  • Inability to listen to music without moving/rocking/dancing
  • Problematic balance e.g. climbing stairs and walking on uneven surfaces


  • Chronic ear infections
  • Congenital hearing loss
  • Viral infections
  • Malformations due to genetic conditions
  • Genetic disorders
  • Reduced oxygen at birth
  • Stroke
  • Meningitis
  • Neurological disorders
  • Alcohol or drug abuse of the mom during the pregnancy
  • Immune-deficiency disorders
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Vascular insufficiencies (lack of blood flow)
  • Head-neck trauma

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