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How do I know if I have a balance disorder?

Balance disorders can cause vertigo (generally a spinning sensation), dizziness, vision problems, nausea, unsteadiness, and fatigue. Certain conditions also cause tinnitus (ringing or other sound in the ears) and hearing loss.

These are also symptoms of many other conditions, and in order to diagnose a balance disorder it is important to see your GP and, if necessary, a specialist.

The words dizzy and vertigo have a number of meanings and the same symptom can affect people in different ways. Listed below are some descriptions given by patients suffering balance disorders to illustrate how the various symptoms might feel. 


  • The room spins when I’m sitting, standing or lying down
  • The room spins when I move from lying to sitting or standing
  • I think things in the room are moving when they’re not
  • I sometimes feel like I’m falling or that I’m moving when actually I’m still


  • I feel like I’ve just stepped off a boat
  • I feel like I have waves going through my head
  • I feel foggy, like my head is full of cotton wool
  • I feel dizzy when I tilt my head back
  • I felt so dizzy I had to lie down

Vision problems

  • My vision goes blurry sometimes
  • When I’m reading, my vision jumps to another line and I can’t go back to the line I was on
  • When I’m walking I have to stop moving in order to read a shop or street sign


  • I feel sick and sometimes vomit


  • I’m unsteady when walking and veer into people or things without wanting to
  • I find it difficult to walk in low light or on uneven surfaces
  • I sometimes lose my balance and fall
  • I feel like I’m walking on pillows and lift my legs too high without meaning to


  • I have this overwhelming need to sleep during the day
  • I just don’t feel like I have enough energy to do what I want to

Ear problems

  • I hear noises coming from inside my ear that sound like ringing/hissing/rumbling/buzzing
  • My hearing is getting worse and I can’t hear low sounds
  • I have to turn up the volume on my TV or mobile phone
  • My ears feel full of pressure sometimes