How Does the Ear Give Us Balance?
Deep inside the ear there are three small horseshoe-shaped tubes that have nothing to do with hearing. These tubes are called the “semicircular canals,” and they help you keep your balance. The canals are lined with sensitive hair cells and filled with fluid.
When your head and body move, the fluid in the canals also moves to keep its position. The motion of the fluid stimulates the hair cells, and they alert the brain to the changes in body position. The brain then sends out messages that correct the positions of muscles and joints, so that you keep your balance.
If the signals sent to the brain do not match those which the eyes and sensory system send then dizziness and motion sickness can result. This can happen, for example, if you travel on a boat but you are looking at the boat rather than at the horizon.
Your eyes see that you are not moving relative to the boat but your ears and body can feel that you are moving. It’s the discrepancy between the two that causes the motion sickness.