Vertigo is a specific kind of dizziness that occurs even if the movement is slight. Sometimes, vertigo may happen even if you don't move at all. It makes you feel like your whole environment is spinning around you, accompanied with a loss of balance and nausea. In some cases, hearing loss may happen as well.1
Your Inner Ear's Role in Hearing and Maintaining Balance
Did you know that deep inside your ear, there are organs responsible for maintaining your balance as you move? Not only is your ear responsible for hearing, but also for movement.
The balance component, simply called the "inner ear," works with your eyes to deliver information to your brain to control your movements and keep you upright. To fully understand how your inner ear works, an overview is listed below of its different components:
Your cochlea is responsible for transduction, the process of converting air vibrations into electronical signals.2 As the vibrations travel towards your inner ear, fluids in the canals vibrate and stimulate sensitive hair cells, creating electronical signals that your brain processes as sound.3
The organ responsible for this conversion is called the "organ of Corti," named after Alfonso Corti, an Italian anatomist who discovered it in 1851.4
• Semicircular Canals
Located above your cochlea are the semicircular canals, which help you keep your balance as you move through the day.5 They're filled with a fluid called endolymph that stimulates hair cells in the canals.
As the hair cells are stimulated, signals are sent to your brain regarding your movement. In turn, your brain tells your body how to maintain its balance by adjusting your posture accordingly.6
When Illness Strikes Your Inner Ear, Vertigo Happens
As with any part of your body, your inner ear can be struck with various illnesses, which may result in vertigo. Common causes of vertigo include head trauma and viral infections. Other times, vertigo happens for no reason at all, such as in the case of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).7
In BPPV, calcium carbonate crystals become dislodged in your inner ear, ending up in the fluids in your inner ear canals. As you move, the crystals disrupt the proper flow of the fluids, confusing your brain. You might also feel nauseated due to the dizziness you're experiencing.8
In some cases, vertigo may also affect your hearing, such as with labyrinthitis, a condition where inner ear's labyrinth becomes inflamed. Since your labyrinth also contains the nerves responsible for processing auditory signals, you may experience tinnitus, a condition that causes a constant ringing in your ears that won't seem to go away.9
Vertigo is a condition that requires serious attention. If you operate any heavy machinery, drive a car or partake in sports activities while experiencing a vertigo attack, an accident may occur. It's better to rest and get the proper treatment needed to allow your symptoms to subside.10