You have probably heard that your ears take part in maintaining your balance. But how is it all connected? Do you know how your inner ear works?
The inner ear has two parts: the cochlea and three semicircular canals. These have different but equally important roles in the way your body functions.
1. The Cochlea: Your Sound Processing Center
The inner ear contains a fluid called endolymph. When noise passes through your ear canal and reaches your middle ear, it makes your eardrum vibrate. The endolymph lets these vibrations pass through to your hair cells.
Hair cells (or sensory hair cells or stereocilia) respond to the vibrations by creating impulses that reach your cochlear nerve. Then the cochlear nerve directs the impulses to your brain.
Damaged hair cells are a major cause of hearing loss. You can keep them sensitive if you avoid prolonged noise exposure and make sure to treat any ear infections.
2. Three Semicircular Canals: They Keep You Balanced
We have three semicircular canals because we move in three dimensions. They contain inner ear fluid, and they are also lined with hair cells. Here, your hair cells pick up information that relates to the way you move.
Your semicircular canals keep track of the way your head moves. You also have two organs connected to the canals: the utricle and the saccule. These are useful when you are moving while your head stays still – for example, during a car ride or an elevator ride.
Any damage to the semicircular canals will lead to dizziness and blurred vision. It will impede your mobility too.
Once you understand the basics of how your inner ear works, you will know how to recognize the symptoms of any kind of inner ear damage. Since your hair cells cannot regenerate, you should make sure not to strain them unnecessarily.