Balance and Vestibular Systems
The balance or vestibular system is located in the inner ear and its primary purpose is to check the position and motion of our head in space, allowing us to stay upright and move with confidence. However, directly or indirectly, the vestibular system influences nearly everything we do. It is the unifying system in our brain that modifies and coordinates information received from other sensory systems.
Most doctors or health professionals do not routinely assess the sense of balance. It is, however, one of the most common underlying causes of difficulties of clients that come to our Centre. The balance system can be over or under-sensitive, picking up even the smallest movement or having difficulty sensing very distinct movements, and this can have a profound influence on behaviour and performance.
In the first instance you often can get a reasonable evaluation of how the sense of balance is performing by simple observations you can make yourself. These can play a key role in uncovering what may lie behind learning, sensory, developmental or emotional difficulties.
Here we outline some typical behaviours that often are the result of the sense of balance not working properly:
- Suffers from motion (travel) sickness
- Suffers from vertigo
- Gets dizzy or nauseous watching things move
- Has difficulty maintaining balance
- Has difficulty walking on uneven ground
- Is clumsy, trips over, bumps into things
- Has poor coordination
- Likes to follow walls, fences, curbs
- Difficulty learning to ride a bike
- Falls out of bed
- Needs to fidget, rock or move constantly
- Likes to swing, jump or play on a trampoline
- Makes hand-flapping or spinning movements
- Makes excessive head movements or head bangs
- Loves, or hates, funfair rides
- Cannot walk out over a pier
- Is affected by patterns on wallpaper or carpets
- Gets panic attacks
- Has agoraphobia
- Hates heights
- Is fearful of flying
- Has Ménière’s disease
Each typical behaviour on its own may not be meaningful. However, where there is a cluster of indicators, possibly across a number of senses, and the person has learning, sensory, developmental or emotional difficulties, these can indicate that one or more of the senses are out of balance.