As well as sending sound waves to your brain so that you can hear, your inner ear helps to keep your balance when you turn your head, walk or even stumble. Vertigo is often caused by problems with your inner ear.
The 2 types of vertigo, according to their cause, are peripheral and central.
Inner ear (peripheral) causes
Common causes of vertigo due to problems with your inner ear include:
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is usually caused by sudden changes in the position of your head, such as when you tip your head up or down, when you lie down or when you turn over or sit up in bed.
- Vertigo tends to last for a minute or less and settles if you keep your head still.
- This type of vertigo is usually caused by small calcium deposits in your inner ear, which move as you do.
- It can increase your risk of falls.
- It is not serious.
- Vestibular neuronitis is the inflammation of the vestibular nerve, part of what is called the eighth cranial nerve.
- This nerve carries messages from your inner ear about head movement.
- When the nerve is inflamed or infected, the sensation of dizziness or vertigo arises.
- It's usually caused by a viral infection.
- The vertigo may last from hours to days, usually improves within a week but but may last for several weeks.
- Your hearing is not affected.
- Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear where you get the feeling of vertigo and hearing loss, and possibly a feeling of pressure in your ears.
- It usually affects younger adults aged 20–50 years.
- The vertigo usually lasts from 1–24 hours, but may last for days.
- Tinnitus (ringing in your ears) is not uncommon.
Read more about Meniere’s disease.
- Labyrinthitis usually affects adults between the ages of 30 and 60.
- It is inflammation of a part of your inner ear called the labyrinth, an organ including the cochlea and part of your balance mechanism.
- As well as vertigo, your hearing is impaired.
- It is usually caused by a common viral infection, such as measles or the flu, but can sometimes be caused by a bacterial infection.
- You may have fever (high temperature), nausea (feeling sick), vomiting (being sick) and tinnitus (ringing in your ears).
A tumour in your inner ear can also cause vertigo, but this is rare.
Other causes (central causes)
Vertigo can be due to problems outside your inner ear, including:
Sometimes, the cause of vertigo is unknown.