Everything About the Inner Ear is Small; Except the Impact.

As much as we might whine and complain that “people don’t think about their hearing,” it’s common for people to know the mechanics of hearing, which usually goes like this: Sound, eardrum, bones, cochlea…hearing. It’s a sketch, but it’s a reasonable sketch.

The inner ear is tiny. The cochlea is a 30mm long tube, that is about 25 cells wide (yes, cells) which contains the Organ of Corti: the hearing organ. The vestibule is the other end of the cochlea. The vestibule connects the cochlea and the semi-circular canals for balance. Those semi-circular canals are three hoops which contain cells that sense the motion of fluid in hose hoops. And those hoops cover the X, Y, and Z axes for your balance.

Hearing is fluid vibrating across hair cells that trigger sound. Balance is fluid moving past hair cells that sense the motion. In both cases, the inner ear contains the mechanism, the brain is the processor.

What happens when the mechanism is broken. In my case, the Organ of Corti simply never functioned perfectly, and got worse over time until I was deaf.

Here’s the point: as much as we whine about ignorance or lack of interest in hearing, imagine having BPPV. Am I right?! Wait. You don’t know what BPPV is? Full disclosure: I had no idea.

Here’s a mouthful: BBPV is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. Uh huh.

Long story short, there’s a malfunction in your balance organ(s)…there are some free-floating crystals that form. They’re not supposed to. The seim-circular canals should be teensy smooth tubes. Crystals are not part of the design. The crystals strike the hairs that sense the motion of the fluid which is balance information, which can cause short and intense bursts of vertigo. Roll over in bed, and the world rolls with you in the opposite direction. Sit up…waaaaay up, but feel like you’re laying down, and up and down and up and then after a minute or two you’ve staved off the urge to barf and the world stops moving.

I’ll say it again, everything about the inner ear and hearing is small except the impact. And this is the impact:

Nat Lauzon regularly faces unpleasant, unexpected moments. When asked what’s it like dealing with vestibular (balance) malfunctions Nat says she thought she was having a stroke. So, it’s safe to say it’s intense, extreme, and unpleasant.

And like everything inner ear, there aren’t a lot of solutions. Medications can help, but mostly you change your life. You work to find a new normal.

When people with inner ear dysfunction have problems, the first thing they do is go the family doctor. Family doctors don’t get that much training on vestibular and inner ear function. In fact, most medical schools spend a few hours teaching about the inner ear, and that’s it. Other “major” organs (by size) get more attention.

This is your takeaway for today: When you stand up, sit down, turn your head, or sit still: your inner ear is hard at work helping keeping you in position. And we all take it for granted, but once in a while, let’s not.

Here’s more information to get you started…




I Hear Sleigh Bells

Everyone hears sleigh bells this time of year, mostly in malls, commercials, and radio. Unfortunately, there just aren’t a lot of reasons to have actual sleigh bells in the city. Except at Candy Cane Lane.

Candy Cane Lane is a street in Edmonton that goes crazy with Christmas decorating. The street is lit up with creative displays celebrating the season. And let’s face it, a little light in the long dark of our winters is welcome.

Andreas’ work Christmas party is a two-parter this year. Part two is lunch. Part one was a hay ride down candy cane lane. It was lovely.

The lights, the children, and the feeling of goodwill was prefect. Elegant. Seasonal. Charming. Perfect.

I sat at the front of the wagon. I wanted to be close to the sleighbells and the clip clop of two Belgian horses hauling us down Candy Cane Lane.

As we made our way down the street and back, everyone on the wagon marveled at the lights and took in the people watching. My eyes were closed half the time. I just listened. Bells are familiar, and I still remember the sound of sleigh bells. It was the combination of the sound of horses hooves and the smells that captivated me. Sure, Friend (one of the horses) ate some hay that was past its best before date and was having a little gastrointestinal conflict, but hooves, bells, and laughter.

It’s Christmas.

Thanks Bruce!

Andreas started his career in radio, first as a casual co-host, and eventually became a news reporter. He’s my little Les Nessman.

All the attention we received a couple of weeks ago with the Glenrose Foundation Courage Awards put us on the radio radar. After an appearance on the Ryan Jespersen show talking about the award and being #deafnotdeaf, Bruce Bowie invited us on the CHED Morning News show.

We’re never going to turn down an opportunity to talk about hearing, sound, and how it impacts your health. The best part: even though it was a morning show, we only had to be there at 8:30am. 

Bruce was great, and it was a really good opportunity to talk about how important hearing is.