Post A Question:

Get answers from our community members. Moderated by disability lawyer David Brannen.

Join Our Community

Winning Disability Benefits for Vestibular Disorders

Posted by
David Brannen
on March 24, 2018
Are you thinking of applying for disability benefits for vestibular disorders but you don't know how? Are you unable to work because of vertigo or other balance disorders?

You do not have to suffer any longer. This article will discuss how you can win disability benefits for vestibular disorders in Canada. This article is part of our series looking at medical conditions and disability benefits.

Disability from Vestibular Disorders: You Are Not Alone

The vestibular system consists of parts of the brain and inner ear that provide humans with spatial orientation and a sense of balance. A dysfunction in this system, which can be caused by disease, injury or environmental factors, can pose a variety of difficulties for the affected individual.

Vestibular disorders are a set of misunderstood diseases that affect over a million Canadians and millions more around the world. The condition is most prevalent among people from the age of 40 and above, but it can affect anyone even very young children.


Types of Vestibular Disorders

The following are the most common types of vestibular disorders that people are diagnosed with:

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) - This kind of vertigo is caused by a mechanical issue in the inner ear that is triggered by sudden head movements.

Labyrinthitis and Vestibular Neuronitis - These disorders are linked to an inflammation of the inner ear or the nerves from the inner ear to the brain, which results in the incorrect relay of sensory information.

Perilymph Fistula (PLF) - This is a defect in the thin membranes separating the middle ear and inner ear that allows fluid (perilymph) to flow into the inner ear, which affects ear pressure.

Ménière's disease - This is an incurable, chronic condition with no known triggers in which large amounts of fluid is collected in the inner ear leading to progressively worsening episodes of dizziness or vertigo.

Secondary Endolymphatic Hydrops - This has symptoms similar to Ménière's disease, but it is triggered by an underlying medical condition or trauma to the ear or head.

Mal de Débarquement (MdD) - This translates to "sickness of disembarkment" and is closely associated with the illusion of movement experienced by individuals long after travelling on a ship, airplane, train or automobile.

Vestibular-ocular Reflex (VOR) - This is a dysfunction in the stimulation of the vestibular system and its corresponding reflex eye movement that stabilizes images on the retinas as the head moves.

Superior Semicircular Canal Dehiscence (SSCD) - This is an opening in the bone covering the superior semicircular canal of the inner ear, which causes the fluid in the inner ear to be displaced by stimuli such as loud noises, coughing and sneezing.

Acoustic Neuroma - This is a benign tumor that grows from the Schwann cells wrapped around the nerves that supply the inner ear and interferes with the transmission of information through the balance and hearing nerves.

Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome  - This is the malformation of the bony canal that connects the inner ear to the brain resulting in hearing loss and imbalance.

Ototoxicity - This is "ear poisoning" caused by chemicals (e.g. mercury, carbon monoxide, lead) or drugs (e.g. aspirin, aminoglycoside antibiotics, loop diuretics) that damage the vestibular system.

Other medical conditions related to vestibular disorders include autoimmune disorders, allergies, and vestibular migraines.

Common Symptoms and Impairments

You might be suffering from a vestibular disorder if you exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Vertigo and dizziness - You experience the unusual sensation of spinning or a difference in the movement of the rest of the world relative to yourself.
  • Visual impairment - You have trouble focusing your eyes on objects, become sensitive to visual stimuli and lights, and experience difficulty seeing in the dark
  • Hearing impairment - You hear a ringing or buzzing noise in your ears, have trouble focusing on sounds, and experience sensitivity to loud noises.
  • Spatial disorientation or imbalance - You become clumsy, develop poor posture and coordination, and have difficulty walking properly.
  • Psychological changes - You experience anxiety, depression and loss of self-confidence.
  • Cognitive changes - You have difficulty concentrating on tasks and remembering information.

Other symptoms include vomiting, nausea, motion sickness, headaches, slurred speech, and chronic pain.

Types of Disability Benefits Available in Canada for Vestibular Disorders

When it comes to claiming disability benefits for vestibular disorders, you might be eligible for one of two types of disability benefits available to Canadian workers. These are the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefits and the long-term disability insurance benefits.

Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits for Vestibular Disorders

The CPP is the government pension plan meant to support you after you retire at the age of 60 or 65. It will also cover disability benefits from the time you became disabled until your retirement when your regular pension will commence. To qualify for CPP disability benefits, you need to have worked for four of the past six years and paid payroll taxes. Your contribution to the CPP is automatically deducted by your employer from your salary as mandated by law. The agency in charge of the CPP is Service Canada, which also requires you to prove that your disability is both "severe and prolonged" leaving you unable to work and earn income to support yourself and your dependent children.

CPP Disability Blueprint Ad


Long-term Disability Insurance Benefits for Vestibular Disorders

Group disability insurance policies are the most common type of disability insurance in Canada. Your employer insured you as part of a group, and you will receive your disability benefits under your employee benefits package. This type of policy provides both long-term and short-term disability benefits. You should check your insurance policy brochure to see the specific benefits you can get including paid sick leave and monthly payments. If you are successful in applying for disability benefits, then you can take long absences from work to focus on your health without worrying about the financial pressures involved.

Order the Disability Insurance Book


Challenges of Winning Disability Benefits for Vestibular Disorders

1. Proper diagnosis and testing are crucial.

To win disability benefits, it is critical that you get the correct medical tests for your condition and a definitive diagnosis from your doctor. These are evidence that you must include in your application. Vestibular disorders are often misdiagnosed since their symptoms, like dizziness and headaches, are very common and are linked to other medical conditions.

Testing for vestibular disorders involves the stimulation of the inner ear, eyes, and head to look for any abnormalities in the functioning of the vestibular system. These tests include the following:

  • Electronystagmography (ENG) or Videonystagmography (VNG) evaluate the movement of the eyes relative to the placement of the head using electrodes placed around the eyes.
  • Video Head Impulse Testing (VHIT) uses a set of glasses with a camera to evaluate if the inner ears and eyes are working well together.
  • Rotation tests also evaluate if the inner ears and eyes work together using video goggles.
  • Computerized Dynamic Posturography (CDP) tests the ability to remain in an upright posture amidst different external conditions usually by standing on a shifting platform.
  • Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potential (VEMP) evaluates the vestibular organs using electrodes attached to the skin and earphones that play sounds to activate responses.
  • Electrocochleography (ECOG) is a type of hearing test that also measures the response to sounds played in the ear through electrodes attached to the skin.
  • Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) gives information about the hair cells of the ear's cochlea through responses to clicking sounds made by a small speaker placed in the ear canal.
  • Auditory Brainstem Response Test (ABR) is similar to ECOG but administered to patients who are unable to have other hearing tests performed.
  • Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT scan) is able to see abnormalities in the structure of the inner ear.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) produces images of the interior of the brain and inner ear to detect any existing vestibular problems.

2. Your Credibility is Critical.

When preparing your claim, make sure that all your statements are truthful and can be backed by solid proof. Any suspicions that your benefits provider has about your credibility will lead to a denial. Aside from the medical evidence discussed above, your family, friends and employer should also be able to corroborate your statements. Inconsistencies in your reports will shed doubt on the legitimacy of your condition. It is also important that you can show that you have been seeking treatment and following your doctor's orders, yet your disability continues to negatively affect your work and life.

Furthermore, the nature of vestibular disorders is misunderstood. It is possible that your employer might report that you came to work seemingly drunk when, in fact, you were suffering from a balance disorder that gave you a stagger and slurred speech. You should make sure that your boss and co-workers understand your condition and its symptoms so that they can give accurate statements. You do not want the reviewing officer at your insurance company to think that you are simply an alcoholic seeking for easy money.


3. Give a proper description of job demands.

You must be able to establish what your work entails so that you can prove that you are unable to perform your job demands due to your disability. This might seem obvious to you, but it is not always clear to your benefits provider. For instance, vestibular disorders are a professional hazard for people working in environments that involve loud noises or the constant threat of physical injuries, like sound engineers, soldiers, and athletes. Therefore, a sound guy who can't hear music properly will not be able to do what his job primarily demands. Similarly, an insurance company could argue that a graphic designer who sits at a computer all day will not be too bothered by sudden bouts of vertigo. In that case, the reviewing officer should be made to understand that vestibular disorders affect vision and spatial reasoning so that graphic artist might have trouble creating visual projects.

Cognitive dysfunction related to vestibular disorders can also affect how you do your job. Memory loss, difficulty concentrating and a short attention span can be dangerous in any type of job whether you are working at a desk or operating heavy machinery.

Denied Disability Benefits for Vestibular Disorders: What You Can Do

So, you've filled out all the forms and submitted as much evidence as you can find. Then, a few weeks later, you receive a rejection letter denying you the right to disability benefits. This means that you have to go back to work even though you are greatly suffering from your condition.

This is devastating news and only adds to the pain that your disorder is already causing you. Fortunately, you don't have to simply accept the rejection and bear your burdens for the rest of your life. You can still appeal the decision of either Service Canada or your insurance company.

If you would like to learn about your options once your claim has been denied and to inform yourself about the appeal process, you can take a look at our books, which you can order for free through the following links.


Still Feeling Unsure About Your Disability Claim? Sometimes a quick call with us can answer your concerns and help you move forward with confidence. Call us now at 888-732-0470 for a free consultation or click here to request a free consultation.

Tags: Disabling Medical Conditions

David Brannen
Founder & Managing Lawyer, Resolute Legal
David is a former occupational therapist turned disability lawyer. He is the founder of Resolute Legal and author of A Beginner's Guide to Disability Insurance Claims in Canada and The Beginner's Guide to CPP Disability.