Balance (Vestibular) Disorders

small child concentrating

Kids stumble and fall sometimes, especially toddlers. However, if you're seeing a pattern of possibly balance-related symptoms (dizziness, falling, blurred vision, disorientation or nausea) — find out what's going on. The Nemours Balance Disorders Program provides a unique and effective way to evaluate, diagnose and care for children with balance and vestibular (inner ear balance) disorders.

Read More About Vestibular Disorders

In our state-of-the art center for pediatric vestibular testing we are able to perform specialized testing in labs where we can stimulate the inner ear and see how balance and gross motor skills (that is, movement of the large muscles) are affected. We believe that our comprehensive approach has allowed us a high rate of success in identifying and managing children with a variety of vestibular disorders.

A balance disorder may be caused by the pathology (problem) of the labyrinth, which is an organ of the body located in the inner ear, consisting of three semicircular canals and the vestibule. The labyrinth interacts with the eyes, muscles, and joints to maintain the body’s position. This system, along with the brain and the nervous system, can be the source of balance disorders.

Balance disorders can be traced to four key areas:
  • Peripheral vestibular disorder, a disturbance in the vestibule
  • Central vestibular disorder, a problem in the brain or its connecting nerves
  • Systemic disorder, a problem in the body other than the head and brain
  • Vascular disorder or blood flow problems
Nemours Children's Specialty Care, Jacksonville

807 Children’s Way
Jacksonville, FL 32207
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For Appointments: (904) 697-3600

Hours: Monday–Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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What to Bring
  • photo ID
  • medical and pharmacy insurance cards
  • preferred pharmacy name and phone number
  • names and dosage of all medications, including over-the-counter medication, your child is currently taking
  • guardianship and custody papers, if a legal guardian rather than a parent accompanies your child
New Patients
  • Patient Registration (PDF)
Returning Patients
  • Release of Information (PDF)
    English | Spanish
  • Patient Presents Without Legal Guardian (PDF)
    English | Spanish
    Note: A parent or legal guardian must be with a child for a first visit.
Forms & Resources
New Patient Forms
  • Patient Registration (PDF)
Returning Patient Forms
  • Release of Information (PDF)
    English | Spanish
  • Patient Presents Without Legal Guardian (PDF)
    English | Spanish
    Note: A parent or legal guardian must be with a child for a first visit.
Resources for Patients & Families
Support Service for Families

Diagnosing and treating balance disorders (dizziness, falling or the sensation of falling, disorientation, or nausea) can help kids develop more normally, become more steady and coordinated, and just function and feel better.

Our Neuro-Otologic Program for Vestibular and Balance Disorders at Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Jacksonville, is unique because we are able to perform specialized testing in labs, where we can stimulate the inner ear and see how balance and gross motor skills (that is, movement of the large muscles) are affected.

The Only Balance Center in the Region Dedicated to Children

As the only balance facility for children in the region, our state-of-the-art and child-friendly equipment helps pinpoint both the cause and the most effective treatment for balance problems in children. The body relies on three separate systems for balance: the neurological (related to the body’s nervous system) the auditory (hearing), and the vestibular (balance) systems, so we bring specialists from several areas together, including:

  • otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat or ENT)
  • audiology
  • pediatric neurosurgery at Wolfson Children’s Hospital

Our team will collaborate to create solutions to treat and meet your child’s needs.

Symptoms of Balance Disorders

Kids with balance disorders often have symptoms of disequilibrium, which is an unsteady, "woozy" feeling that makes it hard to stand up, walk, turn corners. Disequilibrium can so make it difficult to climb the stairs without falling, bumping into things, stumbling, or tripping. These kids also might walk with their legs too far apart or be unable to walk without staggering. 

Another common symptom of a balance problem is vertigo. Kids might describe it as feeling like they're rocking, floating, or "on a merry-go-round." Kids also might feel dizzy, lightheaded, or disoriented.

Balance disorders can cause vision problems, too. Kids might see images that bounce or look blurry whenever they move their heads. This is called oscillopsia, which can make reading and writing really tough.

Balance disorder symptoms also can include:
  • involuntary eye movements, called nystagmus
  • discomfort or difficulty looking at sun glare or lights, especially fluorescent, flashing, or moving lights
  • discomfort in situations with "busy" visuals like patterns, crowds, heavy traffic, and jam-packed areas like shopping malls
  • depth perception disruptions that can affect hand-eye or eye-foot coordination, which makes things like catching or kicking a ball difficult

Balance issues also can impact hearing. Sounds might seem muffled, especially amid background noise. Kids might also have bothersome, distracting ear problems like ear pain, pressure or "fullness"in the ears, and tinnitus, which is a ringing or other sounds like whirring, humming, or buzzing.

Possible Causes of Balance Problems

Doctors can't always pinpoint the cause of a balance problem. But balance-related symptoms may be brought on by any number of things, such as:

  • ear, head, or neck injuries
  • ototoxicity, which is when the inner ear is damaged due to certain medications, including specific antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs
  • migraines
  • hearing loss
  • chronic middle ear infections, called otitis media
  • other infections like: the cold, flu, meningitis, measles, mumps,
    or rubella
  • depression
  • alcohol abuse
  • motion sickness or sensitivity
  • seizure disorders

Children who have a family history of hearing or vestibular problems, dizziness, or motion sickness might be more prone to balance disorders, too.