Misalignment and Ear Function
As Upper Cervical Chiropractors, we commonly see the misalignment in the upper cervical spine creating vestibular issues, which can have negative effects on patient’s ear health and hearing. Our role is not to treat vestibular issues or their effects, but our goal is to correct dysfunction at the upper cervical spine in order to allow the nervous system and surrounding structures to function at an optimal level and allow healing to take place. For the ear’s function, upper cervical issues can affect blood flow and nerve function in the ear.
How Your Nervous System Impacts Your Ear Health
The ear can be divided into three parts: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. The inner ear is the innermost part of the ear, and houses the vestibulocochlear organs. It has two main functions:
To convert mechanical signals from the middle ear into electrical signals, which can transfer information to the auditory pathway in the brain.
To maintain balance by detecting position and motion.
The inner ear is located in the petrous part of the temporal bone, between the middle ear and the internal acoustic meatus. The inner ear has two main components - the bony labyrinth and the membranous labyrinth. These structures are very complex and perform a multitude of processes in order to detect sound and sense the position of the head to aid in balance.
The blood supply to parts of the inner ear are also associated with structures linked to the upper cervical spine. The vertebral arteries pass through the lateral aspect of the cervical vertebrae before entering the base of the skull and dividing into different vascular pathways supplying a variety of structures inside the cranial vault including parts of the inner ear.
The membranous labyrinth is supplied by the labyrinthine artery, a branch of the inferior cerebellar artery (or, occasionally, the basilar artery). It divides into three branches:
Cochlear branch – supplies the cochlear duct.
Vestibular branches (x2) – supply the vestibular apparatus.
The nerve innervation to the inner ear is supplied by the vestibulocochlear nerve (cranial nerve VIII) which enters the inner ear and divides into the vestibular nerve (responsible for balance) and the cochlear nerve (responsible for hearing).
As one of the cranial nerves the vestibulocochlear nerve exits directly from the brainstem. Brainstem function can be influenced by the position of the upper cervical vertebrae either through direct pressure on the brainstem or alteration to its blood supply. Interference at this level of the nervous system can produce a variety of vestibular issues via this pathway and is particularly relevant is Meniere's disease and it’s associated symptoms.
Worried About Vestibular Problems?
If you’re concerned about vestibular problems, our accredited chiropractors are always free for a chat - just schedule a call today https://calendly.com/elliott-41/15min?month=2022-12 for an initial consultation at either our London or Birmingham clinic we can complete a thorough analysis of your health to identify any potential areas of misalignment that could be causing vestibular problems and recommended adjustments and a management plan for your health going forward.