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Joined: Mar 2008
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I had my first attack of vertigo about six years ago while seated at the piano, and it was one of the scariest things I've ever experienced. I thought I was having a stroke and about to die.

The episode passed fairly quickly, but I've felt as though it were beginning to return a few times since then. Piano playing does seem related to onset.

More recently, it's been suggested to me that my increased use of earbud bluetooth speakers (mainly for listening to audiobooks and music while walking dogs) might be related to vertigo onset.

I've googled the topic and found a few postings suggesting a relationship between earbud usage and vertigo, though they are not from what I consider serious sources.

My question: Have any of you had piano-related vertigo issues? And have you noticed any relationship between vertigo onset and earbud usage?


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I've used my Shure SE215 in-ear monitors pretty extensively, and never had any such issues.

IEM's are pretty popular among on-stage musicians -- if vertigo was a frequent side-effect, we'd see people falling down.


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Why don't you speak to a vertigo specialist about preventing future occurrences? If the piano triggered vertigo, maybe you can find some ways to reduce that risk. For example, if this were a potential volume issue, you could try to attack that (piano regulation, room sound treatments, hearing protection, moving to a digital piano, etc.)

Some have claimed that earbuds had the potential to damage hearing more than headphones or loudspeakers. I'm not sure if there is any research behind that. You might search or post on the head-fi forums; they specialise in headphones and earbuds but have more of an enthusiast vs. medical bent.

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Vertigo can be brought on by dropping one’s head quickly. I don’t necessarily think that it was due to the earbuds.

Humans have little crystals in the inner ear
that move and allow us to sense gravity. As we age, those crystals don’t move as easily so head movements can trigger vertigo.

See this article on Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vertigo/symptoms-causes/syc-20370055

I have this and it is wretched. But, you should see a doctor and not listen to my diagnosis. I am not a doctor and I am not practicing medicine.

Vertigo is quite common and there are many forms. Mine hits me rarely, thankfully, but it is always possible if I drop my head quickly. That’s all it takes.

I remember walking to a concert in New York and getting hit with it. You know, the world spins, so, I lurched around on the sidewalk until I stumbled over to the wall of a building and propped myself against it so I wouldn’t fall down. I remember a lady looking at me in disgust, thinking I was drunk I suppose. No help there. I waited a few minutes and it passed.

The same thing would happen to me once in a while while running, when I dropped my head quickly.

I gave up rowing on the water because I didn’t want to face vertigo there. There are forms of vertigo that you can develop on the water that don’t go away on land! That I would never want.

I knew a guy in his 70s who said he would have vertigo for a month. It’s a terrible thing to have to deal with. There are some exercises you can do to lessen the effects.

Last edited by LarryK; 01/22/22 05:38 AM.
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Newer Player, I have read a number of those articles posted on audio/tech pages. In general, they don't strike me as rigorous.

Larry K, I hypothesize that the first attack some years ago was precipitated -- or at least accelerated -- by working on a Chopin waltz that had a lot of big LH jumps, where I had to make a sharp, quick eye movement down and to the left to land the bass note, then look back to the right for the return, meanwhile glancing back and forth at the sheet music.

I also have a theory -- not rigorously tested, and not without downsides on the piano-playing side of things -- that the more I play from memory and not sheet music, the less strain I'll be placing on inner ear function.

Old age ain't for sissies, as my 97-year-old buddy likes to say.


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Originally Posted by ClsscLib
Old age ain't for sissies, as my 97-year-old buddy likes to say.

Sorry to hear that you're experiencing this, ClsscLib! Vertigo can be unnerving. If your quick left eye movement is accompanied by a quick head movement, or perhaps even if your mind thinks it should be, then it might trigger the symptoms. Vertigo is sort of the cognitive response to conflicting stimuli.


I've struggled with sporadic episodes of vertigo too. The little bit of research I've done on it talks about the same crystals and also hairs in the inner ear canals that sense the fluid pressure and help us balance. When they're damaged or blocked then our brains don't receive the correct signals, and they conflict with other signals that they normally correlate with (vision, shifting gravity, etc), and cause us to sort of freak out.

My understanding is that the brain can adapt to the new signals, and/or the signals correct. I think the crystals can dissolve (or be absorbed?) in a period of weeks. I don't know if the hairs grow back, but I think our brains can adapt to the changing signals.

Based on what I've read and experienced and consistent with what LarryK's saying--but probably not terribly scientific--is that extreme movements (farther than normal and/or more severe than normal) can sort of "shake loose" stuff in those canals and send overwhelming signals that aren't usually experienced.

Anyway, the above is consistent with my experience. It will strike, and then it will seem to diminish over a period of time and then return to "normal" for a while. When I'm in one of those periods, just rolling my head sideways on the bed or couch can bother me. But there are two exercises I like to do (one for TMJ and one for allergies) that require me to lie on my back and lean my head over the edge until it's virtually upside down that can trigger it it. Definitely in one of those periods, and not if I'm in a good period.



So, to the question of it being triggered by ear buds, that hasn't been my experience. I've worn them a lot since the pandemic started. I taught remotely for about a year, and still collaborate a lot online and usually wear them when I do. I split about 50/50 between plain old ear buds and a nicer wireless Jabra headset.

Ear buds go in the outer ear, and the balance effecting canals are in the inner ear, but perhaps there's enough pressure somehow that it could pinch or obstruct the tube(s). ?? I do know that the inner ear can be affected by allergies and congestion, so perhaps if already affected then just a slight "extra" push could make an impact.


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