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How The Ear Controls Our Balance

By Jayton Miller

Do you have terrible balance? Is walking from point a to b a challenge for you to do without feeling like you are falling or walking in circles? If you have trouble with balance then it might be because of your ears. Here’s exactly how your ears are responsible for your balance.

Contents:

General Function and Structure Of The Ear In Relation To Balance:

Structure Of The Ear

Along with being the way that you hear, the ear is responsible for balance when you are performing your everyday tasks.

The ear has three main parts:

  • The Inner Ear - The inner ear is responsible for two main functions. Receiving sound waves via the cochlea helping to transmit them to the brain to be interpreted, and the non-auditory labyrinth of the ear that detects changes in the position of the body.
  • The Middle Ear - Also known as the ear drum, there are three small bones known as ossicles that vibrate and conduct the vibrations to the inner ear.
  • The Outer Ear - The pinna and auditory canal gather and focus sound waves to help facilitate their movement into the rest of the ear.

The main part of the ear that is responsible for balance is the “bony labyrinth.” This area is filled with semicircular canals and a membranous area that is surrounded by fluid known as perilymph and endolymph. These fluids play a crucial role in the equilibrium system.

These fluids are inside sacs in the bony and membranous labyrinth in the inner ear. They interact with a gelatinous cap attached to tiny hairs. As the head changes position the fluid moves and pushes on the gelatinous cap sending signals to the brain to register movement.

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Common Challenges With The Balance System (AKA The Equilibrium System):

Common Issues Of The Vestibular System

The main challenge that is seen with this area is loss of balance and vertigo due to the fluid in the ear not responding properly to movement. This can happen if there is damage to the vestibular system of one ear. If both are damaged then the ability to walk becomes difficult and disorientation becomes very common.

Sometimes a change in elevation from flying or diving in the sea/ocean can cause a reaction in the vestibular system resulting in air or sea sickness.

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Conclusion:

The ear is responsible for hearing and balance. The inner ear is filled with a bony and membranous labyrinth that contains fluid filled sacs that are responsible in helping us sense movement so we can balance ourselves in response to our environment. Damage to this system can cause vertigo, disorientation, and trouble walking in severe cases. Rapid changes in elevation can also cause problems when flying or diving in large body’s of water. Keeping this system protected is going to allow for balance to be sustained throughout the entirety of your life.