The vestibular system consists of our eyes, brain and inner ears. When these systems work harmoniously, we are easily able to balance and understand where our body is in space. However, if one or more of these systems is miscommunicating with the others, it results in the sensation of dizziness, vertigo, or generally being off balance.
So, how do these systems work?
For every head movement, our eyes create and equal and opposite movement to stabilize objects in our field of vision (this is known as the vestibulo-ocular reflex or VOR). Information for which way the eyes need to move is indicated by changes in our inner ear. If a miscommunication between the eyes, ears and brain causes the eyes to move when they shouldn’t or fail to move, it will impact our ability to stay balanced.
Not only are your ears a key player in your hearing—they are also a key player in your balance as well. In the inner ear are three canals that are sensitive to movement. When we move our heads, fluids in these canals move as well, providing information about which direction we are moving. If one ear is under or overactive, it sends signals to our brains that indicate we are spinning, even if we are not. There are also two otolithic organs that help us understand our relationship to gravity. These messages are sent to our brain through the eighth cranial nerve, which can impact our balance as well.
This incredibly complex organ controls everything in our bodies, including our balance. The brain interprets signals being sent from our eyes and ears, and allows us to remain upright. If the brain receives a faulty signal from the eyes or ears, or misinterprets the signals, it results in our inability to balance and may result in a balance disorder if the miscommunication is chronic.
Call Hearing Services of Santa Barbara at (805) 967-4200 for more information or to schedule an appointment.