The Vestibular System, which is a contributor to our balance system and our sense of spatial orientation, is the sensory system that provides the dominant input about movement and equilibrioception. Vestibular sense provides information related to movement and head position. The vestibular sense is important for development of balance, coordination, eye control, attention, being secure with movement and some aspects of language development.
The vestibular system is composed of the vestibular receptors in the inner ear, the connections between them and other areas in the central nervous system. Together with the cochlea, a part of the auditory system, it constitutes the labyrinth of the inner ear, situated in the vestibulum in the inner ear. As our movements consist of rotations and translations, the vestibular system comprises two components: the semicircular canal system, which indicate rotational movements; and the otoliths, which indicate linear translations. The vestibular system sends signals primarily to the neural structures that control our eye movements, and to the muscles that keep us upright. The projections to the former provide the anatomical basis of the vestibular – ocular reflex, which is required for clear vision; and the projections to the muscles that control our posture are necessary to keep us upright.
The most commonly diagnosed vestibular disorders include benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis, Ménière’s disease, secondary endolymphatic hydrops, and perilymph fistula. Symptoms of chronic dizziness or imbalance can have a significant impact on the ability of an individual with a disability to perform one or more activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, or simply getting around inside the home, affecting 11.5% of adults with chronic dizziness and 33.4% of adults with chronic imbalance. The painful economic and social impacts of dizziness are significantly underestimated.
Vestibular disorders not only profoundly affect adults, but also children. Once thought to be exceptionally rare, paediatric vestibular disorders are receiving increasing attention from clinicians as an overlooked problem. In addition to impairments of motor development and balance; vestibular deficits may cause poor gaze stability that inhibits children from learning to read. Despite new awareness of paediatric vestibular disorders, children are currently not typically screened for them, and as a result frequently fail to receive medical treatment.