We have all experienced a little dizziness. Did you know that a key component of our balance system is our ears? The American Speech Hearing Association gives us a breakdown of how it all works.
The balance system or vestibular system helps us stay upright when standing and grounds us in relation to gravity. The vestibular system allows us to judge speed and direction of moment, see clearly while moving and it helps us adjust physically to maintain stability. These functions are triggered through signals to your brain sent from the eyes, inner ear and sensory systems of the body, such as muscles and joints.
The inner ear contains three canals that house fluid and sensory hair cells. Each canal has a specific movement it handles – up and down, side to side and tilting. With each movement our body makes the fluid travels over the sensory hair cells which ultimately send nerve impulses to the brain.
The inner ear not only sends information to the brain about movement of the body and head, but also information about head position when there is no movement. Two special organs called the saccule and utricle communicate horizontal and vertical positions of the head to the brain.
Medication, illness and inflammations can affect how our vestibular system operates. Natural aging can also ultimately lead to some balance issues. Everyday easy movements, such as getting out of bed, walking in the dark or even the transition from walking on sidewalk to grass, can actually be very difficult. A prolonged balance issue can even affect your concentration and memory.
Treatment options vary and sometimes your hearing care professional and medical doctor will work together to determine the course. Having good balance is important to quality in life, so it’s important to make an appointment with a professional if you are experiencing a problem.