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Q&A: What are ear-canal stones?

Consumer Reports News: April 03, 2009 11:14 AM

After repeated spells of dizziness and nausea, my doctor diagnosed ear-canal stones. Is this a real condition? —M.A.C., New York, N.Y.

Yes. The body normally maintains balance via an area in the inner ear that uses sensitive hairs to detect the movement of minuscule stones called otoconia, which shift as your body changes position. Occasionally those stones or other debris can become dislodged, causing dizziness, nausea, and loss of balance. While antihistamines can offer some relief from symptoms, they won’t treat the problem itself. Instead, a series of head and upper-body movements called Epley or Semont maneuvers can slowly move the debris to an area where it won’t affect your balance. Your doctor can show you how to perform the movements or refer you to a specialist. But make sure that your doctor has ruled out more serious conditions that can cause the same symptoms, including an impending stroke, multiple sclerosis, or even a brain tumor.

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