What role do the ears play in maintaining balance?

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Our sense of balance relies upon information from our sensory systems, and the ears play a large part in this. The inner ear contains three semi-circular canals filled with fluid. When we move around, the fluid in the canals shifts and "signals" to our brain that our bodies are in...

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Our sense of balance relies upon information from our sensory systems, and the ears play a large part in this. The inner ear contains three semi-circular canals filled with fluid. When we move around, the fluid in the canals shifts and "signals" to our brain that our bodies are in a certain position. Each of the three canals gauges different types of motion, including up-down, side-to-side, and tilting. These three sensory gauges work together to help us maintain a comprehensive understanding of our body's position in space and balance based upon that information. In junction with these three canals are the utricle and saccule. These are two more fluid-filled chambers which gauge sensory information about the body when the head is not in movement. The utricle gauges for horizontal movement of the body, while the saccule gauges for vertical movement.

Altogether, in addition to information generated by the peripheral nervous system and the eyes, we refer to this as the vestibular or balance system.

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