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Can You ‘Ear’ Me?

November 26, 2015 0 Comments

The Certificate III in Individual Support covers a Body Systems module and today we’ll look at the Hearing and Equilibrium System.

Balance and Hearing

Ears play an important role in balance

Let’s start with the ears…

Apart from being a place where one could hang some attractive bling (thus broadening the Christmas gift options), or providing the opportunity for the school yard bully to point out some unpleasant characteristics (how many children have suffered the nickname ‘wing nut’ over the years!), ears play a special role in two major areas. These are our ability to take in information (sounds and communication), and our sense of balance (equilibrium).

The Role of the Ear with Regards to Communication

Your ears allow you to take in vital information via sound. This vital information could be the sound of a car horn alerting you to a near collision while driving. Or it could be the sound of your child crying as she trips and falls, requiring your urgent attention. And then it could also be your loved one telling you how much you mean to them. (Ah! warm and fuzzy moment there!)

In the area of care giving, it might be the laboured breathing of your client, communicating their distress. Or it could be a patient’s family member sharing relevant information that is of grave importance at a critical moment. And it could also be a matter of a colleague pouring their heart out to you, desperate for an empathetic ‘ear’.

As people age, they can develop hearing issues. You’ve heard it before: ‘hard of hearing’ and in the past (being politically and empathetically-challenged times) ‘deaf as a post’. Sadly, when hearing challenges develop this can stifle communication and sometimes lead to ostracism within an aged care setting. Other aged care residents may avoid communicating with a hearing impaired person, as they find it tiresome needing to raise their voice or continuously repeat themselves.

It’s important to add that hearing isn’t the path to a life of perfection or nirvana! People with hearing impairments do live rich and fulfilling lives – simply receiving and delivering communication via different methods.

The Role of the Ear with Regards to Equilibrium

Your ears assist you with your sense of balance, spatial orientation and stability… aka equilibrium! This is directly related to the Vestibular System… and I can’t wait to tell you about how movement can help to train the vestibular system in a future article!

Equilibrium can be split into two types:

1. Static Equilibrium

Static Equilibrium assists you to maintain your body posture when static – that’s right – when you’re not moving. And this is where it gets exciting – and you realise just what an amazing piece of machinery your body is! When your head moves (against gravity) a structure within your inner ear causes stimulation of hair cells to send messages to your brain (via the vestibular nerve). The information contained in these messages help your brain work out which way is upright. Then your body adjusts your position to be where you should!

2. Dynamic Equilibrium

I’m sure you can guess what Dynamic Equilibrium is all about… think ‘opposite’ of static and you have the answer. Dynamic Equilibrium assists you to maintain your body posture when moving. You could be walking, playing a sport, cycling, skiing, or even standing on a boat. The messengers to your brain this time are the tiny receptors within the semicircular canals of your inner ear. They send messages to your brain when the fluid contained within the canals move.

So as you can guess, having damage or impairment to the ear can affect balance and posture… and you’ll learn more about that in your studies to gain a Certificate III in Individual Support here at Back to Basics Care. Stay tuned for more Body Systems articles! I assist in the lectures on this topic, so forgive me for being a tad biased… but I find the entire subject fascinating and a huge learning curve for understanding why care clients and patients act and re-act in certain ways!

About the Author:

Reg, while being the perfect specimen of the human body, is the man of the hour when it comes to studying ‘Body Systems’. He is committed to improving your understanding of the body’s structure and functions, and is excited to share articles on the subject in his own unique and quirky manner.

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