A common medical complaint, vertigo gives the false impression that you or your surroundings are moving, spinning or tilting. The disorder affects the vestibular labyrinth located in your inner ear. This complex system is comprised of fine hair-like sensors and loops, or semicircular canals, that contain fluid as well as otolith organs that monitor the motion and position of your head. The structure relays signals to the brain. When a problem occurs, your inner ear may send a signal that you are moving even when you are not.
This signal conflicts with your eyes and other senses. In addition to blurred vision, the disorder can cause dizziness, loss of balance, nausea, and vomiting. Vertigo is not synonymous with motion sickness, a primary symptom of the condition. Lightheadedness is not a symptom of vertigo. Treatment and the outcome usually depend upon the underlying cause, which may be difficult to determine in some cases. Severe vertigo can result in hearing loss and disability.
What is Vertigo?
Vertigo is the medical term used to describe the condition that causes you to feel as though you or the room is spinning even though you and your surroundings are motionless. The disorder is related to a problem with the vestibular system that is responsible for your orientation and balance. Your doctor will make a diagnosis based on your description of symptoms, a full medical examination and various diagnostic tests.
Chronic vertigo is often diagnosed using the head-thrust, Romberg and Fukuda-Unterberger test to assess your eye movement and balance. Risk factors for vertigo include cardiovascular disease, ear infections, head trauma, and certain antidepressant and antipsychotic medications.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is the most common form of the disorder. In addition to ear infections, the condition can be caused by moving your head too quickly or standing up too fast. While vertigo can cause severe symptoms, the condition is not dangerous and usually resolves itself in a few days.
In some cases, individuals suffer from a labyrinthine-vestibular disorder caused by a genetic malformation of the inner ear, head trauma, a stroke or tumor. Central vertigo is generally caused by an issue in the cerebellum or the brain stem. These conditions cause chronic vertigo that may not respond to treatments like medication, occupational therapy, and surgery.
If your vertigo is caused by a labyrinthine-vestibular dysfunction, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Although vertigo alone may not be sufficient to meet the eligibility requirements, it may be combined with other medical conditions to meet the agency’s criteria.
Getting Disability Benefits for Vertigo
The Social Security Administration (SSA) lists vestibular balance disorders as a disability in the Blue Book. It is included under Part B Otolaryngology in Section 2.0, Special Senses and Speech. To qualify, your vertigo-related balance problems must also be accompanied by some level of hearing loss and tinnitus, an inexplicable ringing noise in your ears.
Your SSA application for a disability should include your medical history, diagnosis and the results of any prescribed therapy or hospital stays along with reports of imaging studies, such as CT scans, x-rays, and MRIs. A doctor’s statement should include the number, length, and severity of your attacks.
In addition to a comprehensive exam performed by a neuro-otolaryngologist, the SSA may require that your records include hearing tests conducted by this ear, nose and throat specialist. You should also include a statement that describes how the condition has diminished your ability to function normally. Presenting a strong case improves the likelihood that you will receive SSDI benefits.