Balance and Movement
What is the vestibular system and why is it so important?
The vestibule, located in the inner ear, has 3 main functions:
- Balance As the primary organ of equilibrium, it plays a major role in the subjective sensation of motion and spatial orientation
- Posture Vestibular input to areas of the nervous system elicit adjustments of muscle activity and body posture
- Eye Movement Vestibular input to the nervous system helps stabilise the eyes during head movements
A well-modulated vestibular system is important for controlling the nervous system’s level of arousal. While many clients have never heard of their vestibular system, everyone relies on this ‘hidden’ sense every day because it allows you to:
- Maintain your balance, and movement particularly in the dark when you cannot use visual cues
- Affects muscle tone
- Differentiate a ‘p’ from a ‘d’ or a ‘q’
- Maintain good posture at your desk and accurately copy from the board in a classroom
- Sense when you are accelerating, braking or turning such as while driving or while playing a sport
- Sense where you are in space such as when you are hanging upside down, spinning or changing direction on playground equipment
- Sense your change in balance when an aircraft finishes climbing and has reached cruising attitude
Given these many important functions, you can appreciate how important the vestibular system is for learning and life performance.
We see many clients with poorly performing vestibular systems. This can undermine their quality of life andconstraintheir ability to participate in a range of mainstream activities inside and outdoors. Examples of this drawn from our case-files are:
- Loss of balance when you shut your eyes – a middle-aged client fell over in the shower if she shut her eyes briefly to wash her face
- Intermittent or chronic vertigo, dizziness and or nausea – this can make a normal lifestyle impossible to maintain..
- Significant motion sickness
- Difficulty maintaining balance (static or moving) especially on uneven ground
- Avoidance of playground equipment like swings and spinners
- Reluctance to engage in activities that involve a lot of movement especially the head
How can Integrated Listening therapy help?
iLs programs stimulate cerebellar activity to strengthen neural connections and, iLs programs are designed to strengthen the vestibular system with the integration of auditory and balancing activities. The bone conduction Listening systems used in clinic (DLS/iLs) and at home (iLs Focus) have a much greater capacity to influence vestibular function.