What is a vestibular test?

Vestibular testing, also referred to as vestibular function testing or VFTs, is a series of tests that can evaluate hearing function. The goal of the tests is to determine if there is damage to the vestibular portion of the inner ear. The vestibular area of the ear controls balance. If the testing can determine if your symptoms, primarily dizziness, vertigo or a balance issue, are caused by an issue in the inner ear, they can be effectively treated.  

Vestibular tests are typically performed by otolaryngologists or audiologists.

Types of vestibular tests

There most common vestibular tests include :

Electronystagmography or Videonystagmography

An electronystagmography (ENG) or a videonystagmography (VNG) are tests that record eye movements in different settings to examine the function of the inner ear. Eye movement will be examined:

  • While doing tasks such as following a visual target
  • During rapid eye movement
  • As you change positions 
  • To evaluate your response to cold or warm air or water being placed in your ear

During an ENG test, small electrodes are placed near the eyes to record eye movements in light and dark settings.

During a VNG test, a video camera mounted inside eye goggles records eye movements.

Rotary Chair Test

A rotary chair test can help diagnose an inner ear or brain disorder. During the test, your eye movements are recorded with electrodes that are placed near the eyes as you sit in a computerized chair that moves. A rotary chair test can measure your responses to head movements that are similar to the speed you will perform daily activities. This test is most appropriate for patients who may have issues with both sides of the vestibular system. 

Computerized Dynamic Visual Activity (DVA) 

Computerized dynamic visual activity is testing that evaluates how a vestibular problem affects your vision while you perform normal daily activities such as walking or riding in a car. A DVA is effective in determining if your brain is compensating from vestibular issues or to measure the amount of change in your vestibular ocular reflex after vestibular rehabilitation. During this test, you will be given an eye test and asked to view the letter “E” and acknowledge which way the letter is pointing. The test is then repeated with simulated movement. 

Computerized Dynamic Posturography (CDP)  

Computerized dynamic posturography is a group of tests that evaluate how well patients use their visual, vestibular and sensory systems for balance. You may be given any of three different tests during a CDP:

  • Sensory organization test — measures your body sway under different test conditions.
  • Adaptation test — measures your reflex reactions to unexpected forward movements while you stand on a platform.
  • Motor control test — measures your reflex reactions to unexpected backward movements while you stand on a platform.

A computerized dynamic posturography test is typically performed by a physical therapist.

Subjective Visual Vertical 

A subjective visual vertical test evaluates how the inner ear senses gravity. This test is most effective in diagnosing vestibular neuritis, injury to the inner ear, or damage to the nerve that transfers information from the inner ear to the brain.

Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potential (VEMP)

The goal of a vestibular evoked myogenic potential test is to evaluate if the inner ear organs and vestibular nerve are functioning correctly. A VEMP test is most effective in diagnosing vestibular neuritis, acoustic neuromas, bilateral vestibular loss due to medication use or Meniere’s disease. If you have one of these conditions, your VEMP response will be lower than normal or not present at all.

Who is a candidate for a vestibular test?

You may need vestibular testing if your doctor would like to evaluate your hearing function. 

Find an ENT doctor nearby

Mercy Health locations that can treat you