Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is an inner ear problem, usually affecting only one ear—but which ear? How does a doctor figure this out?

“Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a condition that causes dizziness with sudden movements or change in position,” says J. Mark Anderson, MD, DABFM, of Executive Medicine of Texas and who is board certified in family medicine.

“The inner ear has very small crystals of calcium carbonate. When these crystals move around, mixed signals are sent from the inner ear to the brain.”

So for instance, if you’re sitting still, head facing straight, and then turn your head to the side 45 degrees, the room will seem to move a bit, because the signals are confusing your brain into thinking your head is still moving.

BPPV can be severe enough to induce nausea, even vomiting—along with the sensation that the room is moving around the patient.

People with this disorder may have difficulty walking without losing their balance in severe cases.

But the drama of BPPV does not mean it’s dangerous — other than the risk of falling onto a hard object after losing one’s balance.

Which Ear Is Causing the BPPV?

“Identifying which side your BPPV originates from is important,” says Dr. Anderson. This means that you need to pay special attention to your movements prior to a dizzy spell.

“If you turn your head suddenly to the right, or lie on your right side just before the dizzy spell starts, your issue is on the right side. Same goes for the left.

“Once you have identified which side is the culprit, you can then apply a technique called the Epley maneuver.” Here is how to perform the Epley maneuver on yourself.

Dr. Anderson is coauthor of the award-winning book, “Stay Young: 10 Proven Steps to Ultimate Health,” and host of the nationally syndicated Staying Young Show which goes to podcast as Staying Young Show 2.0.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  

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