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Lynn S. Alvord PhD
Tests for Imbalance
Tests for imbalance include the formal inner ear tests (vestibular tests above) as well as some other tests for non-inner ear imbalance. The latter tend to be somewhat general clinical tests performed in physical examinations and often give general information about imbalance, but usually not very much specific information as to the exact cause.
Tests for gait consist mainly of the patient walking with the examiner observing the patient’s gait. There are specific gait types for various disorders or categories, for example “Parkinson’s gait” which exhibits difficulty starting as well as other abnormal characteristics.
Abnormal “inner ear gait” is characterized as “wide based” meaning the patient walks with the feet farther apart than normal due to a lack of finely tuned balance; otherwise, the patient’s gait is often fairly normal. Walking in the dark (or with eyes closed) results in markedly worse balance, often exhibiting near falls. If the inner ear disorder is new or severe, balance with eyes open may also be significantly impaired. Head turning with eyes open will also result in markedly abnormal balance.
Other observational tests are many including the Romberg, Fukuda, and Tinetti. Generally with inner ear imbalance, the patient falls toward the bad ear or swerves toward the bad side.