Patients with chronic balance problems and dizziness can experience a tremendous handicap in their everyday lives. Normal daily activities are often avoided for fear of bringing on an attack of their symptoms, which can include disorientation, lack of balance, light-headedness, swaying, or, in the case of vertigo, a spinning sensation that can be accompanied by nausea. While dizziness and balance disorders can afflict anyone, they are common in older patients.
The Human Vestibular (Balance) System
The human balance system is the coordinated effort of several systems: The vestibular system is the balance portion of the inner ear. This system tells the brain where the head is in space. The visual (the eyes) and the somatosensory systems (the body and sense of touch) give the brain information about the movement and stability of the world around us. Our central nervous system (the brain) then processes the information. It is conflicting information provided by these systems that results in dizziness or balance problems. The appropriate coordination of all these systems provides us with normal equilibrium.
Electronystagmography (ENG Test)
The balance system is a complex one involving coordination of the vestibular (inner ear), visual (eyes), and sensory nerves throughout the body. The ENG test is a balance test used to evaluate problems with balance and equilibrium.
The ENG balance test is actually a battery of tests utilized to diagnose your problem. You will have electrodes placed near your eyes to monitor your eye movements. The first of these tests involves rapid side-to-side eye movements and following moving targets with your eyes. You will then be moved into different positions to test for dizziness caused by movement or motion. Lastly, a Caloric evaluation will be completed. Caloric testing involves introducing warm and cool water into the ear canal to stimulate a response of the inner ear system. The resulting eye movements are then measured. Patients may feel rocking or spinning or they may not feel different at all. Any of those responses are not uncommon and do not mean anything good or bad about the results. If patients feel movement, it is temporary and related to the change in temperature from the caloric irrigation.
Test Duration: 1 to 1.5 hours