When tiny calcium carbonate crystals inside the inner ear break off because of head trauma, a cold or old age, the objects can float around in ear fluid and sometimes cause benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Those who suffer from this condition can experience extreme dizziness, nausea and vomiting. There are, however, surgical and nonsurgical options available to treat BPPV.
BPPV will usually clear up by itself within a few weeks, but until it does disappear, a person suffering from it can help prevent the symptoms by not lying down on the affected side.
The Epley and Semont Maneuvers
A patient suffering from BPPV may find relief after performing special maneuvers with the help of her doctor. The Epley maneuver involves moving one's head sequentially into four different positions. With the Semont maneuver, a patient who is lying down is moved from one side to the other very quickly. After either procedure the patient is required to lie flat for 48 hours. A University of California San Diego Medical Center study has shown that 75 percent of people who perform the maneuvers are cured of BPPV.
Cutting the Nerve
If maneuvering techniques are not effective in relieving a patient's BPPV, a surgical procedure called singular neurectomy might be the answer. Singular neurectomy, also known as posterior ampullar nerve section, involves cutting the nerve inside the ear that the calcium crystals are irritating. In some patients, however, the nerve is in a tight spot and difficult to cut. Dizziness, hearing loss and tinnitus, or ringing of the ears, can be the end results of this surgery.
Posterior Canal Plugging Procedure
This surgical procedure involves making an incision behind the ear and packing the ear canal with tissue to prevent the crystals from floating around inside the ear canal. The patient who undergoes this surgery will usually experience swelling and hearing loss for weeks afterward, but in the majority of cases BPPV symptoms are cured.