MN DeafBlind

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VESTIBULAR LOSS

The vestibule is the balance half of the inner ear. The other half is the cochlea which controls hearing. For a tour of the inner ear click here. http://www.cochlea.orgOpen in new window. Link to a different web site.

The vestibule is composed of 3 semicircular canals.

  • One is in the vertical position and gives information about movement of the head up and down.
  • One is horizontal for movement side to side.
  • One is tilted outward in each side to give the sense of head movement between the horizontal and vertical.

When the vestibule does not work at birth (as is the case in Usher Syndrome Type I, in many cases of CHARGE, and in a third of all children in schools for the deaf), the children have major problems with gross motor development. So-called vestibular dysfunction causes them to have unusual ways of getting around before walking such as:

  • combat crawling or
  • lying on on the back and pushing backward with their feet
  • or the "5-point crawl" which is very typical and means that they put their head down on the ground as they crawl.  The "5-point" crawl results in a worn-off spot of hair in the front or on the side.

If the only problem is vestibular dysfunction, the average age of walking is about 24 months.  If other problems are present such as vision loss or muscle weakness, walking may not occur until 3-4 years (typical of CHARGE Syndrome).

Children lacking this inner ear balance also take longer to trust their muscles and joints.  They have problems with activities like riding a bicycle where they do not get feedback from their legs.  Some eventually can become athletes but usually prefer individual sports such as track or swimming because of their vision loss.  It is life saving to keep them out of murky water because their vestibules will not tell them which way is up.

Sandra L.H. Davenport, M.D..

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