Before we can talk about how balance is affected by your inner ear, we need to talk about the functions of your ear. The two major roles of the ear are hearing and maintaining balance.
Sounds vibrations cross the eardrum to the inner ear causing you to hear. These vibrations are switched into nerve signals in the inner ear and then are carried to the brain by the auditory nerve. Balance or equilibrium is controlled also by the inner ear. Small hairs and fluid in the inner ear stimulate the auditory nerve to help the brain maintain balance.
As you age, the structures inside the ear start to change as well. Your ability to pick up sounds may decrease. You may also have problems maintaining your balance as you sit, stand or walk.
Did you know there are exercises to help with your balance and equilibrium? You can build up the tolerance in your brain to overcome dizziness through regular exercise. By doing vestibular exercises repetitively, you can train the brain to adapt. We must seek out and overcome the positions or situations which cause the dizziness. Avoiding them will only prolong and bring on potentially more issues such as isolation, depression and falls.
Vestibular exercises will
• train movement of the eyes, independent of your head
• practice balance in everyday situations
• practice head movements that cause dizziness
• become accustomed to moving about naturally in the daylight and in the dark
• re-build confidence in making easy, relaxed, spontaneous,
BY: JANET L. HAYNES RN, VP OF CLINICAL SERVICES