Balance and equilibrium may not be something you think about regularly. However, the balance system is extremely significant, and has a presence in almost everything you do. Understanding how it works and how it affects your daily life is crucial in maintaining a functioning balance system, and moving smoothly through your daily life.
Balance is controlled by the brain and sensory areas of the body, as well as the inner ear. There are three canals in the inner ear that makeup the balance system and deal with different movements of the head. The head can tilt, move side to side, and up and down. The fluid within the canals allows this movement, and the hair cells in the canals send impulses directly to the brain. This tells the brain of your location, and assists in depth perception.
The balance system allows us to walk, run, and stay upright during movement. Any problems caused within your balance system can cause major problems for your day-to-day life. If there are disruptions in your inner ear canals, it can result in vertigo, dizziness, problems with depth perception, and more. The balance system is very sensitive to movement and head position, and can especially be affected by fast acceleration. It is important to assess your balance if you begin to experience:
- Unexplained dizziness
- Problems with your gait/movement
- Blurred vision or slurred speech
- Neck stiffness
- Involuntary eye movement
Seeing a doctor or audiologist immediately after noticing these symptoms is very important. You’ll need to find out the underlying cause, and the affected areas of your inner ear and balance system, before being treated. In some cases, balance rehabilitation will be necessary, but in others, surgery or other medical treatments will be prescribed to restore your balance system to its original, healthy condition.