To understand balance problems, you firstly need to know a little about the workings of the inner ear. The human inner ear is made up of both the cochlea (hearing organ) and vestibular (balance) system. The vestibular system has 5 inner ear organs dedicated to balance.
We have three semicircular canals (horizontal, anterior and posterior) which are located in different spatial planes and are responsible for detecting head movement in any orientation.
We also have two sacs (utricle and saccule) which detect linear accelerations such as stop/start and up/down movement as well as head tilt.
When the vestibular system is functioning well, both ears will send symmetrical messages to the brain. If one ear stops working this can create vertigo (a false sensation of movement). If a semicircular canal stops working, this can create a spinning sensation. If the utricle or saccule stop working, this can create a rocking sensation (similar to feeling like you are on a boat).
The good news is that if part of the inner ear stops working, your brain is very adaptive and can re-learn how to use the “new” information coming from your ears. Initially people will often want to stop moving their head because it makes them feel worse, but movement is so important to let the brain learn your new normal. One way to speed up this process and challenge the balance system in safe environment is to see a vestibular physiotherapist.