Body

Does the ear regulate our balance?

I heard that your ear controls your balance. How does that work exactly?

© Shutterstock

Your sense of balance records the position and movement of your head and is linked to five fluid chambers in the inner ear, including the three-labyrinth labyrinth. They each have a cone at the bottom of a jelly-like mass, a cupula.

If you turn your head, the moisture flows away into the corridors and collides with the cupula. It contains hairs that - when affected by movement - send nerve signals to the brain. The corridors form a coordinate system, and can therefore distinguish rotational movements in all directions.

Normally the liquid comes to rest quickly, but if you turn around quickly, like in a merry-go-round, it takes longer and you get dizzy.

If you move your head linearly, for example, if you nod yes, it will be registered in two other chambers, sacculus and utriculus. Just like the labyrinth, these contain hairs in jelly that are linked to nerves. The jelly in the sacculus and utriculus is covered with heavy lime particles, the otolites.

For example, if you bend your head forward, gravity influences the otolites, so that they pull on the jelly and therefore the hairs. They immediately send a nerve signal to the brain, which records the position of the head. This signal is also sent when the head is resting.

The otolites follow slowly when, for example, your head shoots forward. As a result, you can notice an acceleration and therefore also determine whether the train or car you are driving is moving forwards or backwards without having to look out the window.

Rotating movement

The hair cells (3) lie in a gel, the cupula (2). If the head does not move, the gel is at rest. If you turn your head, the cupula experiences pressure (4); the hairs move and send nerve signals to the brain. (1: Moisture.)

Linear movement

The hair cells are in a gel. If your head is upright, the gel will rest. If you bow your head, gravity pushes against it; the hairs move and send nerve signals to the brain. 1: Otolites, 2: Gelatin membrane, 3: Hair and 4: Gravity

Video: How the Inner Ear Balance System Works - Labyrinth Semicircular Canals (April 2020).

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