Where are the ear crystals?
Each inner ear, or vestibular system, has three semi-circular canals – the posterior, the anterior and the horizontal canal. Ear crystals live on a membrane in a nearby vestibular sensory organ called the utricle. All of the semi-circular canals share fluid with the utricle, so the ear crystals can float into the semi-circular canals if they break off the membrane.
The runaway ear crystals cause BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo).
There is a shared entry point of the posterior and anterior canal connecting to the utricule where the ear crystals normally live is called the “common crus.” The horizontal canal connects with the utricle also.
In a case of BPPV, a person can have a misplaced crystal(s) floating in any of one or combination of their 6 inner ear canals. Those crystals are supposed to be in the utricle organ in the inner ear, but when a person has BPPV, the crystals have moved and gone floating in one of the semi-circular canals.
This can happen through hormone changes, head trauma or normal aging (amongst other causes).
Most people likely have more than one crystal floating loose, possibly even a sediment of thousands of ear crystals.
Sometimes people even have BPPV in both ears. Anyone with a head injury is most likely going to have it in both ears because each ear probably had ear crystals break loose from the trauma and go floating away from where it belongs into a semi-circular canal.
Risks of Self-Treatment for Ear Crystals
The reason the self-Epley treatment does work for a lot for people is because the inner ear canals are not totally set horizontal in relation to gravity. The posterior canal is a little lower in the head than the others, making it the most common place the crystals end up. The Epley maneuver only treats the posterior canal.
If people don’t do the treatment right, or they have a sediment of ear crystals, then they can convert it to the horizontal or anterior canal.
If people have a lot of crystal sediment in their canal and they improperly treat themselves with the Epley maneuver, the crystals end up converting into the other canal because they don’t pass through the common crus.
Then the person ends up with ear crystals in two canals! A so-called “canal conversion.”
And that’s much more difficult to treat, but still possible in more treatment sessions.
I see this result in people that try to treat themselves and from clinicians that are not well trained in the maneuvers, those that are “dabbling.”
People with “multi-canal BPPV” and persistent BPPV are the patients I usually need to see more than once. They may need 2-3 visits with me, or more in order to completely resolve their complaints of ear crystals.
Due to the risk of not doing the treatment correctly, fear of falling during the maneuver, possibility of a panic attack, and the need for an assessment to determine if other canals are involved, I do not recommend for people to try to treat themselves for BPPV ear crystals.
In my practice, I see a lot of patients who have all types of BPPV and all combinations of canals with ear crystals, and I get excellent results with these patients.
For more information on BPPV and other topics related to vertigo, check out my Vertigo Detective blog.
This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.
hi Dr. Bell, I’m 52 and recently I had been doing alot of bending over after not being able to do much in the last year with depression.
I started out with some stretching and yoga, and recently started taking care of my garden. Alot of bending over!!
I woke one morning with really bad vertigo…my sister talked me into doing the bed roll which her doctor told her to go home and perform told her it would take 5 mins from start to finish.
So I tried it. I knew it was my right side by how I tried to get up out of bed on my right side it was terrifying And the bed roll it was horrendous to say the least..worked but something weird happened.
As I was at the end and up on my shoulder looking down to the floor I went to sat up slowly and turned looking straight forward i got super dizzy so bad I kinda had to throw myself back onto the bed.
Why would that happen at the end of the procedure? And when I would check to see if it’s the left side nothing really happened as far as dizziness. I’m really concerned.
I am glad you are coming out of the depression and getting more active! Congratulations.
I have this blog on Dizziness with Gardening.
This blog is on Common Pitfalls of trying to treat yourself for vertigo.
I cover additional information in this blog too.
This blog is on the Reasons to seek Professional Vertigo Care.
I do not support people trying to treat themselves because unusual things can occur like what you experienced.
I suggest you find a Vestibular health care provider using this blog to search online.
I had a root canal on # 2 and crown over it due to crack and just a crown on # 3. I felt really dizzy. I was in the chair for around 2 1/2 hours. I drove home which was a two hour or so drive and I’m still feeling like I’m going to fall over the next day. Is this normal and if it is how long dies this feeling last?
I am sorry to hear about this!
You may be interested to check out my blog on VertigoDetective.com on the Connection between Vertigo and Teeth.
I also just published this blog about feeling dizzy at the dentist.
All my best,
Kim Bell, DPT
Vertigo just returned a second time. The first time my chiropractor did the Epley move three times. After that, vertigo subsided. That was about 3 months ago. It just came back. My question to you is why do the crystals fall out of the ear. Can we stop the crystals from
I am so glad you have someone nearby who knows how to treat your vertigo. That is wonderful!
I wrote this blog on Recognizing BPPV Vertigo Recurrence.
I wrote this blog on “BPPV Prevention: Is it Possible?”
This blog is on What to Avoid after BPPV treatment.
This blog discusses the common causes of BPPV in response to your question about why the crystals fall out.
On VertigoDetective.com, I have a lot of blogs on BPPV to help you understand this condition.
I hope that information is helpful.
Kim Bell, DPT
Hi I suffered from BPPV after being knocked unconscious after a car accident 15 years ago. Had some dizziness after and doctor performed an Epley manoeuvre on me which worked for 15 years but dizziness came back just recently while exercising at home. Because of Lockdown I tried performing the manoeuvre myself, nearly completed it when went really dizzy , so contacted my doctor who offered to do it for me. Doctor did both sides but after my sinuses tightened up and been having trouble since with blocked ears, sinus pressure especially on bending forward and anything physical. Crunching and crackling noises in my nasal area and ears when move head …avoiding doing any yoga type moves that may make me dizzy again, have a telephone appointment with ENT next month but have been experiencing this since June. Do you think the crystals have gone into a different semi circular position?
I think it is great that you are following up with the ENT doctor. Good plan!
You may also want to have your head, neck, ribs, etc assessed by an orthopedic manual physical therapist. This provider directory may help you find someone to check out your nearby bones and muscles.
This blog describes classic symptoms of BPPV. That may help you determine if you still have BPPV symptoms or not.
This blog discusses five reasons why the Epley maneuver does not work.
I wish I could offer more but there is not much I can do without assessing you in person. I hope the information I shared is helpful.
I hope you find a good team of providers to help you get relief.
Dr. Kim Bell, DPT
Ma’am I only had vertigo attack in past when i get drunk but 3 months back one night i had a vertigo attack in middle of night and I didn’t even had alcohol and that terrified me then i got normal but from last 1 week i feel unsteady while walking and feel dizzy when i put my head on my pillow
I am sorry to hear what you have experienced!
I suggest you search for a vertigo doctor in your area to seek individual medical care.
This blog may help.
Kim Bell, DPT
I am looking for a professional in the south Florida area
I suggest searching for a provider at Dizzy.com.