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Ask Dr. Julie: Does A Head Tilt Mean Something Is Wrong

Hi, I’m Dr. Julie Steinhauer. In this segment of Ask Dr. Julie, let’s talk about head tilting and why people might do that. Head tilting, sometimes it’s known as torticollis, we will see a head tilt with an individual or sometimes we’ll notice head tilting associated with problems with hearing or with the ears. So if a child or adult has a hearing problem or ear infection, they may tilt to one side kind of putting that ear that they hear better with towards things so they hear conversations better. It’s also common to see people who have problems with their head, neck and spine to potentially have a tilt or twists of the head. So it can be turns like this with like the chin pointed one direction. It can be to the side like this. It can also be a combination of maybe like a chin up or a chin down position, and you can get those kind of combined.

It’s also very common to notice a head tilt for someone who has problems aligning their eyes correctly. Now this can come after traumatic brain injury, maybe like a stroke. It can come after another traumatic brain injury, like maybe an accident with concussion or whiplash. So you do want to pay careful attention if you have a child, maybe who’s sitting in front of the TV and they’re always in an unusual position to look at it. Or they’re sitting in an unusual position when they read, they are tilted and looking down to one side, that’s going to give an indication that there’s something to do with the way the eyes are lining up and possibly the way the eyes are seeing that they’re kind of getting into this position to make it better.

Other individuals who may experience or have a head tilt would be people who have, again, something wrong and going on with their eyes, which is called nystagmus is where the eye is constantly kind of wobbling or moving and they don’t stay stationary. Some individuals will have an area where they move their head into position if the eye doesn’t move that much. They may be moving into that head position to control alignment and the movement of the eyes. So you can see there are lots of things that could potentially be the reason why someone has a head tilt. There are also some serious conditions like a brain tumor. So you never want to just ignore seeing your child or an adult all of a sudden beginning to develop like a head tilt or twist or turn. You always want to kind of dig in and learn more as to why they be doing it.

Now, a lot of times you can just ask and someone may tell you, well, I’m doing it because maybe they’re not hearing well. And kids may say, well, I’m doing it because my right eye sees well and my left eye does it or something. So sometimes you can just ask and you’ll get an answer, and then you can do something about it. But always pay attention to head tilts, twists, turns, and any kind of unusual head position, as it could mean a lot of things and it could meet a lot of things for vision.

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