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The vestibular system: Are you still spinning?

The Vestibular System is the reason you are not falling over right now. The Vestibular System processes sensory information about motion, balance, and the spatial environment. The system is comprised of the semicircular canals, the utricle, and the saccule. The utricle and saccule sense your linear and vertical movements, such as walking. The semicircle canals are filled with fluid and are the structure that senses rotational movement, such as your head moving round and round. If you’re an older person reading this, you probably can’t get on crazy rollercoasters as you did in the earlier days. This is because the fluid in your semicircular canals has thickened and is lagging in its movement. This is vaguely the premise of why people get motion sickness. There is no solid answer for the cause of motion sickness, but the leading theory is that there is a miscommunication between your vestibular equilibrium and what your eyes are telling your brain (The Atlantic).

According to a recent epidemiological study, approximately 69 million Americans have experienced some form of vestibular dysfunction. The most common vestibular disorders include Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BBPV), Labyrinthitis and Vestibular Neuritis, Ménière’s Disease, Secondary Endolymphatic Hydrops, and Perilymph Fistula.

The American Hearing Research Foundation says you may be experiencing vestibular dysfunction if the following apply:

  • Vertigo
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Unsteadiness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Tinnitus
  • Hearing loss
  • Jumping vision
  • Problems with coordination and thinking

The treatment for any of these symptoms varies on the diagnosis. The physicians and audiologists at the Shea Clinic Ear Nose & Throat and Shea Hearing Aid Center have the experience and expertise to help you understand and manage your vestibular disorders. We welcome the chance to help make living life less topsy turvy!

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