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This lesson explains where the vestibule of the ear is located and its major function. You’ll also learn a bit about a condition called vestibulitis, which is itself part of a broader problem.

What Is the Vestibule?

Can you feel gravity? Yes, you can. You can feel it if an apple falls down on top of your head from an apple tree.

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But you can also feel it inside of you. Your body can sense things like gravity and linear acceleration intuitively, even if we can’t quite grasp what they are mathematically.We’re going to find out how this is the case as you learn about the vestibule and vestibulitis in this lesson.The vestibule is an important part of your inner ear. When we think of our ears we usually think of those things sticking out on either side of our head. But those are some of the least important structures of the actual ear. The real machinery of what our ears are made for, the parts that function for hearing and balance, is actually inside of our head! And the vestibule is one of these important structures.

The vestibule’s main function is to detect changes in gravity and linear acceleration. So, for example, structures in the vestibule are responsible for telling you if you’re standing up straight or if you are upside down. The vestibule also helps you sense when you’re going up or down in an elevator or feel acceleration when you step on the gas in your car. The vestibule helps you determine the tilt of your head even when your eyes are closed.

Vestibulitis

Like any other part of your body, the vestibule can be affected by diseases.

One of these is called vestibulitis. Literally, this translates to ”inflammation of the vestibule.” Vestibul obviously refers to the vestibule, while -itis refers to inflammation. Vestibulitis of the ear shouldn’t be confused with vulvar vestibulitis or nasal vestibulitis.

These are separate conditions also sometimes very generally called vestibulitis.In the case of the ear, vestibulitis is a less common and narrower term for a broader condition known as labyrinthitis. The labyrinth includes the vestibule as well as other structures (the semicircular canals and cochlea). Labyrinthitis is an inflammatory disorder of the inner ear. Note the same suffix as before, -itis.

In other words, labyrinthitis includes the irritation and swelling of the inner ear. Labyrinthitis can be caused by viruses and bacteria. It can also be caused by autoimmune disorders. Autoimmune disorders are those where the immune system erroneously attacks the self (auto).As you can imagine, all of this can lead to problems with hearing and balance.

Thus, the following signs and symptoms of labyrinthitis shouldn’t be too surprising:

  • Hearing loss in one ear
  • Loss of balance
  • Dizziness and a form of dizziness called vertigo. Vertigo is when you feel like your surroundings are spinning or like you are spinning when this isn’t actually the case.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Involuntary movement of your eyes (called nystagmus)

Labyrinthitis may go away on its own, but there are some drug treatments that can be used to help treat it, including antihistamines and corticosteroids. These drugs fight inflammation. Antibacterial or antiviral agents may also be used if a bacteria or virus is suspected as the cause. There are also medications that help to relieve dizziness.

Lesson Summary

The vestibule is just one part of your inner ear. The vestibule contains structures that help you sense gravity and linear acceleration. An example of this sensation is seen when you press the gas pedal to accelerate your car or stop it and then reverse it. The vestibule helps you sense all of this.The vestibule of the inner ear can become inflamed. This is properly called vestibulitis of the ear. This term is not commonly used however, since the broader term of labyrinthitis, which includes vestibulitis, is more commonly used.

Labyrinthitis is the inflammation of the labyrinth, a structure that contains the vestibule. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and autoimmune disorders. As a result of the inflammation, a person will have difficulty hearing and may experience a type of dizziness called vertigo.

This is a sensation of spinning when it isn’t actually happening. Treatments for labyrinthitis include antibacterial agents, antivirals, and anti-inflammatory drugs.

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