How Do Patients and Otolaryngologists Define Dizziness?

Brianna L Murphy, Jakob L Fischer, Anthony M Tolisano, Alvaro I Navarro, Lily Trinh, Waleed M Abuzeid, Ian M Humphreys, Nadeem A Akbar, Sharan Shah, John S Schneider, Charles A Riley, Edward D McCoul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To assess for differences in how patients and otolaryngologists define the term dizziness.

METHODS: Between June 2020 and December 2022, otolaryngology clinicians and consecutive patients at 5 academic otolaryngology institutions across the United States were asked to define the term "dizziness" by completing a semantics-based questionnaire containing 20 common descriptors of the term within 5 symptom domains (imbalance-related, lightheadedness-related, motion-related, vision-related, and pain-related). The primary outcome was differences between patient and clinician perceptions of dizzy-related symptoms. Secondary outcomes included differences among patient populations by geographic location.

RESULTS: Responses were obtained from 271 patients and 31 otolaryngologists. Patients and otolaryngologists selected 7.7 ± 3.5 and 7.1 ± 4.3 symptoms, respectively. Most patients (266, 98.2%) selected from more than 1 domain and 17 (6.3%) patients identified symptoms from all 5 domains. Patients and clinicians were equally likely to define dizziness using terms from the imbalance (difference, -2.3%; 95% CI, -13.2%, 8.6%), lightheadedness (-14.1%; -29.2%, 1.0%), and motion-related (9.4; -0.3, 19.1) domains. Patients were more likely to include terms from the vision-related (23.6%; 10.5, 36.8) and pain-related (18.2%; 10.3%, 26.1%) domains. There were minor variations in how patients defined dizziness based on geographic location.

CONCLUSIONS: Patients and otolaryngologists commonly described dizziness using symptoms related to imbalance, lightheadedness, and motion. Patients were more likely to use vision or pain-related terms. Understanding of these semantic differences may enable more effective patient-clinician communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34894241233949
JournalAnnals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology
StateE-pub ahead of print - 20 Feb 2024


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