Dizziness (Vertigo) and Balance Problems: Diagnostic Tests

An otolaryngologist (also called an ENT) is a doctor who specializes in disorders of the ear, nose, and throat. Your ENT can help find clues to the cause of your dizziness. He or she will examine you and go over your medical history. Your ENT may also order certain tests to help diagnose your problem.

Otolarygologist examining woman's ear

Hearing testing

In most cases, you will be referred for hearing testing. This is because the nerve that sends balance signals also sends hearing signals. A problem that affects balance can also affect hearing.

Hearing specialist testing woman's hearing

Other tests

Your doctor may recommend more than one kind of test. The following tests are painless, but may cause dizziness in some cases.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) creates images of the ear or head. A magnetic field and contrast medium are used to produce the image.

  • Electronystagmography (ENG) records eye movement. Small electrodes are placed on the skin around the eyes. Then the ear is filled with warm or cold water.

  • Rotation tests show the relationship between the inner ear and the eyes. You may be asked to wear special goggles or sit in a computerized chair.

  • Posturography tests your standing balance under different conditions. You will stand on a platform that measures shifts in your body weight. 

  • Electrocochleography (ECoG) measures the fluid pressure in the inner ear. An abnormal ECoG may mean you have Meniere's disease or other conditions.

  • Vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (VEMPs) may be used if a rare condition like superior semicircular canal dehiscence is suspected. Electrodes are placed on the neck, and clicks are heard in the ear.