At Home, Work and School
People are affected by balance and dizziness disorders in many different ways – not all of these tips may apply to your particular situation. Try strategies that seem likely to work for you and disregard the rest.
- Decrease eyestrain
- Reduce glare
- Decrease visual overload
- Reduce noise
- Organize and plan ahead
- Improve memory and concentration
- Lessen neck and back strain
- Eliminate bothersome odours
- Reduce falls risk
- Reduce your workload
- Share selectively
- Take advantage of benefits
- Getting back to work or school
- More resources
- If you are persistently light sensitive (photophobic), refrain from wearing sunglasses indoors. Sunglass use will aggravate your light sensitivity. If you wear prescription eyeglasses, ask the optometrist for the FL-41 coating on your lenses. You can also purchase blue light-blocking glasses without a prescription. Look for big pairs that block out as much light as possible.
- Use the 20-20-20 rule to avoid eyestrain when reading, watching TV, using a computer or other electronic device. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 6 meters (20 feet) away.
- When possible, use modern flicker-free monitors. These use direct current modulation rather than pulse width modulation (PWM) to control brightness.
- Read from a printout instead of a screen where possible.
- Dim the brightness on mobile phones and computers. This may not help if you are using an older device.
- Reduce screen contrast.
- Increase font size.
- Switch back and forth between screen-based and non-digital tasks throughout the day.
- Filter out blue light using the night shift features found in Windows, iOS, or in third party applications.
- Make print bigger by using a magnifying glass, borrowing large-print books from the library, and increasing the font size and contrast on electronic devices.
- If you find it hard to read print books because of your vestibular disorder, use audio books. You can borrow audio or taped books free-of-charge from your local public library. You may need to complete an eligibility form. If you are homebound, home delivery can be arranged. Service varies by location – contact your local library for details. Your local librarian will be happy to help you download necessary apps and explain how to get the most out of the audio or taped books collections.
- Use natural light when possible.
- Install full-spectrum, non-flicker lights where possible - the flicker of fluorescent lights provokes symptoms for some people.
- Experiment with different colours of transparent plastic (3-ring binder index dividers can be found at most dollar stores) put over the page of a book or newspaper. They can cut glare and help you see more clearly.
- Try to sit with your back to the light.
- Consider using an anti-glare filter on your computer screen.
- If you have vestibular migraine, try using green LED lights at home. Some research suggests green light is least likely to trigger a migraine attack.
Decrease visual overload
- When using an electronic device, turn off screen notifications and pop-ups to lessen visual distraction.
- Follow your fingers as you swipe on touch screens.
- Take part in audio meetings instead of virtual ones, when possible.
- When reading, put a blank piece of paper under the line you are reading to reduce distraction from the text below.
- Cut down on clutter and keep things organized to help you find them quickly and easily. This strategy can help you from becoming overwhelmed by visual stimulation.
- Simplify home décor – if busy patterns trigger your symptoms, eliminate them as much as possible. Consider covering, replacing, or removing bothersome wallpaper, rugs, upholstery, and pictures. If possible, replace slat window-coverings with light-filtering curtains.
- Plan shopping and driving trips at quieter times of day to reduce the complexity of your surrounding visual environment. Take frequent breaks in busy environments.
- If you are sound sensitive (photophobic), avoid constant use of earplugs. Most earplugs make sound intolerance worse over the long run. Restrict their use to activities where sound levels exceed safety limits, such as using a lawn mower.
- If your sound sensitivity is severe, consider consulting an audiologist for tinnitus retraining therapy or "pink noise" therapy as these may help.
- If possible, use thick, soft floor- and window-coverings as well as upholstery that can absorb sound waves.
- If possible, install soundproof windows and doors to reduce outside noise.
- If you do not have soundproof windows or doors, caulking or weather-stripping can seal gaps that let in noise.
Organize and plan ahead
- If you have difficulty deciding what to wear in the morning, lay out your clothing before you go to bed.
- If you find it hard to decide what to eat for meals, write a simple plan and stick to it.
- If following a recipe is challenging, pick something simple to make. Measure out the ingredients in advance and put them on the counter in order of use.
Improve memory and concentration
- Set alarms on your phone or watch as reminders for key appointments and when to take medication.
- Post sticky notes where they cannot be missed. They can help remind you of important tasks such as locking the door or turning off the stove.
- Do not be shy about asking people to speak more slowly or repeat things if you cannot follow what is being said.
- Read out loud to yourself – it can help you absorb information. You can also try writing out a brief summary of what you just read in order to improve retention.
- Reduce distracting noises by closing doors, turning off buzzing lights and fans, or using noise-cancelling headphones.
Lessen neck and back strain
- Raise your computer monitor to eye level.
- Take frequent breaks – long sessions sitting in one position at a computer, on the phone, reading, cooking, or working on a hobby can trigger symptoms by straining your neck and back muscles.
- Take frequent breaks to stretch, do simple balance exercises or rehydrate.
- Be aware of your posture when lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling. Keep your back straight, abdominals tight and be mindful of the amount of strain you are experiencing.
Eliminate bothersome odours
- Use commercial odour-reducing products or fill a container with activated charcoal (available at pet supply stores).
- Use scent-free products when possible.
- Ask family, friends and co-workers (this may be challenging) to avoid using scented products around you.
- Talk to your employer or union about developing a "scent-free workplace" policy. Accommodation for environmental sensitive are required under the Human Rights Acts in Canada. Read more.
Reduce your risk of falling
- Lightly touch a wall as you move about to give your muscles, skin and joints (proprioceptive system) extra input.
- With advance planning, you can having a greater likelihood of preventing falls.
- Take steps to fall-proof your home.
Reduce your workload
- If possible, take a lighter course load or work part time until your symptoms improve.
- Get family members to pitch in more with chores or take up the offer of a friend’s help.
- At school or work, talk about your condition with a trusted teacher, professor, school guidance counsellor, or work supervisor.
- Buddy up – it is likely one of your colleagues is also dealing with an ongoing health issue and can provide a sympathetic ear.
Take advantage of benefits
- Find out if your workplace offers employees a confidential benefit program giving free-of-charge access to short-term counselling services.
- At school or university, take advantage of free counselling services.
- If your dizziness or imbalance condition impacts your ability to do your job, you may be eligible for disability benefits.
Getting back to work or school
Canadian employers have a duty to accommodate people, within reasonable limits, to support them to work by overcoming limitations caused by a disability such as a chronic balance and dizziness disorder.
As the Supreme Court explains, “The purpose of the duty to accommodate is to ensure that persons who are otherwise fit for work are not unfairly excluded when working conditions can be adjusted without undue hardship.” Work with your employer to develop and carry out an accommodation plan.
Examples of accommodations for a balance and dizziness disorders might include a flexible work schedule, modifications of job duties, changes to your work environment to make it quieter and less distracting, and providing appropriate technology.
Requests for accommodation often start with a medical note from your doctor. Once the request is made, your employer has a duty to get enough information to understand what is needed so you can work safely.
As an employee, your role is to cooperate with your employer. This includes continuing to look for and continue treatments for your condition, going to medical appointments as required, and participating in accommodation discussions and plans.
If your employer cannot accommodate you
Speak with your disability claims adjuster to find out if there are professionals, either contracted by your insurance company or from within your workplace, that specifically look at transitioning people to new careers. Typically, the insurance company used by your employer funds an occupational therapist (OT) and/or a vocational consultant to work with people around their specific symptoms and transferable job skills. In Canada, provincial or territorial employment services can also be very helpful.
If motion makes a job unattainable then a more static job would likely be needed. Rightly or wrongly, there is also the sad reality that insurance companies are not really as interested in a person’s job satisfaction and are more focussed on finding them sustainable and gainful employment.
If you have hearing loss associated with your vestibular condition, there are likely services in your community that can help you find suitable employment.
If you are a college or university student, find out about your school's services for students with chronic (long-term) health conditions. You might be able to get accommodations and support at school. Possible accommodations include extra time for tests and assignments, a quiet place to write exams, and assistance taking notes.
The following can offer more help and support for affected individuals and their families.
Download a user-friendly guide [PDF] to employers and employees working together on health issue in the workplace. Published by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
A Saskatoon-based online supplier of ergonomic products for computer workstations at home or work. Also stocks adjustable stands for holding iPads, tablets and eReaders. The book accessory makes it much easier to read while lying on your back or side.
Learn how to set up a basic workstation. Includes an online computer workstation self setup tool. A BC government website.
Eyecare 20 20 20
Based on the popular 20-20-20 rule this iOS app sends notifications every 20 minutes.
Eye Leo is a free PC application that regularly reminds you to take short breaks for your eyes.
Makes the colour of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. Available for macOS, Windows, Linux, iPhone/iPad, Android.
Page updated August, 2019.