A sense of balance well being (not feeling dizzy or imbalanced) arises when the healthy brain integrates normal signals from the inner ear, the eyes and the muscle sensors in the legs. With aging there is a decrease in function of all of these critical areas:
- As the brain ages there is less plasticity (the ability to rebound from injury) and less ability to integrate complex signals from multiple organ systems.
- Just as hearing decreases with age, so too the organ of balance in the inner ear becomes less efficient with age.
- Vision decreases with age and eye diseases such as cataracts and retinal disease affect depth perception.
- The muscles in the legs weaken with age and the muscle sensors are often adversely affected by neurological disease, such as the peripheral neuropathy of diabetes.
- Orthopedic problems, such as a bad back, hips or knees will often change the way a person holds their posture, causing dizziness or imbalance.
Dizziness of aging is difficult to treat because of the confluence of these multiple problems. The best strategy is vestibular rehabilitation therapy (Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy) as it promotes better integration of these systems and has no potential side affects.