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trainHome trainMultisensory Impairments IndexBalance/Vestibular

Balance/Vestibular

The inner ear has a hearing (auditory) component—the cochlea, and a balance (vestibular) component.  The vestibular apparatus consist of three semicircular canals and an utricle and saccule.  Together these provide information about the position and movement of the head.  Watch an animation

Our vestibular sense tells us about head position in relation to gravity so we know which way is 'up'; detects motion and triggers the muscles which control eye movement so we can keep looking at something while we are moving.  Try this. This vestibular information is integrated with information that the brain receives from the the eyes (vision) and the muscles and joints (proprioception) so we can develop and maintain postural control when sitting, standing, walking and using our hands and know whether we are moving or what we are looking at is moving.  Try this.

The vestibular sense plays a key role in our ability to self-regulate our arousal level (ie our ability to maintain a calm but alert state).

Damage to the vestibular system is often associated with low muscle tone and can also be associated with low vision.  These difficulties can be compounded by a lack of motivation to move resulting in significant delay in the development of gross motor skills.  Young children with damage to the balance organ are likely to favour laying flat on their back and later side lying and adopt a 'W' leg position when floor sitting to give a broader, more secure base.

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Copyright Wendy Pallant 2009  Links checked 10/10/09