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Your Balance System

Good balance is often taken for granted.

Most people don’t find it difficult to walk across a gravel driveway, transition from walking on a sidewalk to grass, or get out of bed in the middle of the night without stumbling. However, with impaired balance such activities can be extremely fatiguing and sometimes dangerous. Symptoms that accompany the unsteadiness can include dizziness, vertigo, hearing and vision problems, and difficulty with concentration and memory. Learning more about your vestibular system can help you understand what happens when something goes wrong.

The Human Balance System

How the balance system uses sensory input from the eyes, muscles and joints, and inner ear to maintain balance and stable vision.

Ear Anatomy

Learn how the anatomy of the ear controls balance. Includes a diagram of the ear and a glossary of terms.

Peripheral Vestibular System

The vestibular system can be divided into two main systems: the central system (the brain and brainstem) and the peripheral system (the inner ear and the pathways to the brainstem). This publication discusses the peripheral vestibular system in depth.

Central Vestibular System

One important distinction when diagnosing a vestibular problem is whether a patient’s dizziness originates from the peripheral vestibular system (the labyrinth of the inner ear and the pathways/nerves connecting to the brainstem) or the central vestibular system (the brain and brainstem). Learn more about central causes of dizziness here.

Vestibular Injury

An explanation of how the balance system recovers from injury through the compensation process; acute (immediate) and chronic (long-term) compensation; causes of decompensation and failure to compensate; use of medication and vestibular rehabilitation therapy.

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