Vestibular function tests

A hearing and balance test examines the function of the organs of the inner ear. This is a delicate organ embedded in the bone at the base of the skull. It converts the ear drum vibrations into electrical sound signals, and senses movements and gravity.

The purpose of this test is diagnostic. The test can determine whether dizziness, vertigo or imbalance is due to inner ear disease, or whether it is due to another source.  It can also be useful if your symptoms are caused by several factors in combination, or to establish that the inner ears are functioning normally. These tests are most commonly used for diagnosis of conditions such as vestibular neuritis, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, and Meniere’s disease, and provide helpful information in a range of other disorders.

Preparing for your test

PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOUR EARS ARE CLEAN AND FREE OF WAX. CONSULT YOUR LOCAL DOCTOR FOR THIS. IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT YOU HAVE NO WAX IN YOUR EARS – OTHERWISE THE TEST CAN NOT BE DONE.

  1. Please fast for 2 hours prior to the test. Small amounts of water are ok.
  2. Please refrain from cigarettes and alcohol 24 hours prior to the test.
  3. Do not take medications for dizziness (like Serc or Stemetil) and sleep disturbances for 2 days prior to the test.  Consult your local doctor if necessary.
  4. Please do notwear make up, especially eye make up.

What does the test involve?

The test takes approximately 1 1/2 hours.

A technician will perform the test, Dr Sturm will review the results later and prepare a detailed report.

The test is comprised of four separate tests, each designed to assess a particular function of your inner ear.

1. Audiogram
This first part of the test is designed to determine whether there is any hearing loss.  The technician will place headphones on your ears and you will be asked to press a button when you hear a variety of tones.

2. BOG – ElectroOnulography
The second part of the test measures eye movements.  This provides valuable information about reflex pathways within the brain.  In this part of the test the technician will place goggles over your eyes that have an inbuilt camera to track your eye movements.  You will be asked to follow a red dot with your eyes, whilst keeping your head still.

3. Caloric Test
The third part of the test measures the responses from the semicircular canals which are sense organs for head movement, acceleration and velocity. While you are lying down, water will be directed into your ear canal and your eye movements recorded in the dark.  Firstly the water/air will be cold (about 30C), and then the test will be repeated at a warmer temperate of about 44C.

4. VEMP – Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potential
The fourth part of the test measures the responses from the gravity sensing organs in the inner ear.  The technician will place small recording electrodes on your head, chest and either side of the neck.  Headphones will be placed on your ears and when you hear the clicking sound the technician will ask you to lift your head off the bed and hold for about 20 seconds.

“Will I feel anything during the test?”
During the caloric test you may experience brief episodes of vertigo.  These are temporary and will settle after a minute or so.

“Will there be any side effects?”
After the dizziness has settled, there will be no after effects. You will be able to return to your normal activities.

Results
The results of the tests are reported afterward the test has been performed.  Dr Sturm will review the results and prepare a detailed report within a few days.  If referred outside of the practice for vestibular function tests the report will be forwarded on to your referring doctor within a week.  If you are a patient of the practice check that you have a follow up appointment to see Dr Sturm to get the results of your test or if Dr Sturm is going to forward the results directly on to your GP.