The organ of balance passes on crucial information to the brains for maintaining balance. The organ does not do this only when standing still, but also when moving. Additionally, the organ makes sure that we keep our eyes stable when moving our heads.
The balance system, also called the vestibular system, integrates all information about moves and positions of various parts of the body. The system makes it possible to react to every disturbance of our balance, whether voluntary or involuntary. Recovery of balance after a wrong step or of the eyes when turning around.
Our brain combines information coming from various systems in order to reach equilibrium/balance. Apart from information coming from the organs of balance in both ears, this also includes information from the eyes and from the rest of the body (such as the muscles and, more specifically, the muscle spindles).
The research into balance, also called videonystagmography (VNG), takes an important place in the research into the functionality of the organ of balance. Here the functioning of the organ of balance and the equilibrium nerve that has to lead the proper signals to the brains are studied in particular.
In a lab doing research into Usher Syndrome a zebrafish without an organ of balance is swimming circles around its own axis.
People who are born deaf mostly have balance problems. Apart from their organ of hearing their organ of balance does not work either, because the body creates the entire inner ear in one go.
Children suffering from Usher Syndrome type 1 go through the phases of psychomotor development, but will do this more slowly. This is because they do not have all sensory information available.
For many people suffering from Usher Syndrome it will be more difficult to keep their balance at a later age. This is caused by their deteriorating eyesight. They are disorientated easier because of the tunnel vision and it becomes increasingly difficult for them to stabilise their eyes. A part of the vestibular system drops out. They more often seek support by grabbing someone’s arm or a pillar or (stair) handrail. Fast turning movements make them dizzy and they feel insecure when exploring a new, unknown environment.
To help your child in its motor development and to build up self-confidence, it is important that your child is given intensive vestibular therapy. As soon as your child has learned how to walk, it is wise to keep training these skills and to stimulate the child to pick up new challenges. Frequently dancing and sporting train the muscle spindles in the muscles and tendons.
At this moment, (innovative) medical aids are under development to help people with balance problems, such as the Balance Belt and the Vestibular Cochleair Implant (VCI).
What can you do yourself to improve your balance? Apart from balance exercises there are also tips and tricks to support you in case of balance problems. The use of some medicines can also (temporarily) influence your balance.