Your ears don’t just help you hear. In fact, they work together with other systems in your body to help you understand your place in space. If you have a steady sense of balance, you might not have a problem understanding where you are, how to stay upright, and how to keep yourself from falling. However, your eyes and brain aren’t the only organs involved in this process.
Many of those that have trouble with their balance find that the problem lies in their ears. Ear balance disorders can make you feel unsteady, wobbly, or constantly moving. These sensations of vertigo can seriously impact your ability to walk, stand upright, and even sit up. Before we touch on balance disorders and how they’re treated, it’s important to understand the ears’ role in balance.
How Do We Balance Ourselves?
Our balance system relies on the labyrinth, a maze of bone and tissue located in the inner ear. It holds the semicircular canals, the otolithic organs, and the cochlea. While the cochlea is used for hearing, the canals are used for balance. These look like three circular loops, and each is responsible for sensing a different type of movement. One senses up/down, another senses side-to-side, and the last senses tilt. When the fluid within these tubes move, the hair cells sense the movement and transmit it to our brain. This allows us to understand how we are moving through space. Our balance system is so sensitive that it even tells us when we are moving within a vehicle or elevator.
Problems with the inner ear can lead to balance problems, dizziness, vertigo, and even nausea. We might feel that we are moving when we’re not, struggle to stay upright or get motion sickness from standing still. These are all serious issues that can impact our ability to move around and sit up. People with severe vertigo might even feel sick while laying down.
Quite a few things can lead to balance problems, but it’s a lesser-known fact that hearing loss can cause balance disorders. Our ears are involved in more than just hearing, and the presence of the semicircular canals in our ears can lead to balance problems in people suffering from hearing loss.
What Are Balance Disorders?
Balance disorders are any condition that leads to a loss of balance or sense of vertigo/dizziness. These might be caused by simple things such as ear infections or low blood pressure, or a more serious issue like tumors or improper blood circulation. Regardless of what causes a balance disorder, it can lead to serious problems. A person with balance problems might feel like they’re tipping over, spinning, or floating, even when they’re standing still. Some people with balance disorders report experiencing vertigo when they turn their head, especially when getting out of bed or rolling over. They might stumble from time to time, hold walls to center themselves, or find themselves dragged to the ground. The severity of balance disorders can vary from person to person, and the cause of your balance problems can determine how bad they will be.
Balance Disorder Treatment?
The treatment of balance disorders largely depends on the cause of your condition. Infections can be treated with antibiotics, while illnesses like Meniere’s disease require other medications. Many people with permanent or untreatable balance problems seek out ear balance disorder exercises. These exercises are known as Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy, or VRT.
These exercises help desensitize their balance system to certain movements, making it easier for the person to move around without triggering their vertigo. While it might not completely solve the problem, it can prevent falls and make vertigo easier to live with. Many people who receive VRT have fewer problems bending over, turning their head, and walking over patterned floors.
These exercises must be performed properly to have any positive effect. A VRT specialist can help you learn more and guide you through the exercises. It’s important to do these exercises in the presence of a counselor. They will keep you from falling if you become overwhelmed and challenge you when the exercises become too easy.
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