The human ear is divided into three compartments: the external ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The inner ear contains the spiral shaped cochlea, where sound waves are transduced into neural signals, and the vestibular complex, which contains the receptors for our sense of equilibrium.
The semicircular canals project from the posterior region of the vestibule and are responsible for the detection of head motion in three spatial planes. The anterior duct sense forward and backward motion. The posterior duct detects moving up and down. The lateral duct senses moving left to right.
Each canal contains a membranous semicircular duct where angular momentum is sensed. At the base of each duct is an expansion called the ampulla. Within the ampulla, long stereocilia of hair cells are embedded in the cupula, which sticks out into the endolymph. When your head moves, the endolymph moves the cupula and stimulates the stereocilia.
Vertigo is a feeling of dizziness or the sudden sensation of spinning when there is no real movement.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, BPPV, is the most common cause of vertigo. BPPV develops when small calcium carbonate crystals, or otoconia, become loose and float within the posterior semicircular canal. These otoconia may slow or reverse the movement of the cupula sending the brain confusing messages about the body's position.
Vertigo can be associated with nausea, vomiting, and unsteadiness. During episodes of vertigo, it is recommended to remain still in a safe place until the sensation has passed. Vertigo can improve over time. Medications and physical therapy can help improve vertigo symptoms. It is important to always consult with your doctor before taking any therapy to treat this condition.