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What is the Vestibular Nerve?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The vestibular nerve is one of the two branches of the vestibulocochlear nerve, functioning in tandem with the cochlear nerve. It has the job of transmitting data that has to do with the regulation of the sense of balance to and from the brain. When there is damage to the vestibular ganglion, the semicircular canals, or to the nerve itself, the patient will experience a sense of vertigo that can be extremely severe.

In actual function, the vestibular cranial nerve provides the means by which data that directs the necessary adjustments to maintain a proper balance is communicated to and from the brain. When the nerve is working properly, the data is in constant transmission as the individual walks, runs, or even sits. In situations where people travel over rough terrain or engage in activities such as mountain climbing or sky diving, the nerve makes it possible for the brain to compensate for the change in direction and angle. This, in turn, makes it much easier for the body to maintain a proper sense of up and down for the individual, regardless of the circumstances.

Because the function of the vestibular nerve has to do with maintaining a proper sense of balance, any health issue that interferes with that function can impact the ability of the individual to remain in an upright position. Inflammation of the inner ear may place pressure on the nerve and create a situation where the individual feels extremely unstable, especially when attempting to sit or stand. Often, treating the root cause of the inflammation will help to alleviate pressure on the nerve and restore a proper sense of balance that is free of any feelings of disorientation.

There are usually other symptoms that indicate the presence of some infection or inflammation that could lead to an interruption of the proper function of this nerve. A middle ear infection not only has the potential to temporarily lessen the hearing ability, but can also spread to the inner ear and begin to impact the ability of the nerve to communicate with the brain. People who experience any sense of fullness in the ear should seek the aid of a medical professional immediately. Often, treating the infection before it can progress to the inner ear will prevent any type of pressure or inflammation that would, in turn, have a negative impact on the sense of balance.

When some type of injury to the head causes vestibular nerve damage, restoring proper function may be a prolonged process. Steps are often taken to help relieve any swelling that may take place, reducing the pressure placed on the damaged nerve. During the recuperative period, the patient is likely to spend a great deal of time in bed, with orders to keep head movement to a minimum. In some cases, a brace may be used to help minimize movement while the nerve is allowed time to heal.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including The Health Board, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon285999 — On Aug 18, 2012

I have been dealing with dizziness or vertigo for quite some time now. I see a Dr. in Boston at Mass Eye and Ear. He just sent me to physical therapy for six weeks The physical therapist told me I have nystagmas. She's given me exercises to do but it hasn't helped with the vertigo or dizziness.

I wonder now if I have a vestibular nerve that's damaged. I sure hope it's corrected once I have the cochlear implant done.

By anon256668 — On Mar 22, 2012

I am diagnosing myself now that I am reading and it is making a lot of sense. I have been to so many doctors and no one has been able to diagnose what I have.

My balance is super bad and I have vertigo and motion sickness all the time, so now that I read this, it makes sense. I think I have a damaged vestibular nerve. I hope I can find a cure for it. It is driving me nuts!

By anon255837 — On Mar 19, 2012

It's amazing how many people recover from diseases like this but they can still be quite serious.

Every time someone who has something incredibly wrong with their vestibular nerve will lose balance.

By lightning88 — On Sep 07, 2010

Humans aren't the only ones who get ear problems. Vestibular neuritis can also show up in dogs.

The signs of vestibular problems in dogs are much the same as they are in humans though.

Loss of hearing, dizziness, and as always with vestibular problems, bad balance.

Although it can be scary to learn that your dog has a problem with their vestibular nerve, the prognosis is actually pretty good.

Just take them to the vet and they'll help you out.

By EarlyForest — On Sep 07, 2010

I have a friend who has a vestibular schwannoma. She had been experiencing problems with her balance and with her hearing, and so she finally went to the doctor about it, and they told her that the had a growth on her auditory vestibular nerve.

It was a pretty scary time, because at first the doctor said she might have some sort of brain tumor -- but luckily another doctor decided to check for vestibular syndrome, and that's what it was.

She's totally fine now, but it was really scary when she didn't know what was going on. I mean, it's not like we really learn about the vestibular nerve in anatomy class.

I'm just glad she's OK.

By rallenwriter — On Sep 07, 2010

This is so cool -- I suppose I never really thought about their being a nerve involved in balance. It makes sense, but I just never thought about it. So does that mean that vertigo is just a vestibular nerve disorder?

Now every time I go off balance I'm going to wonder if I've got a vestibular disease or disorder!

Ah, the joys of reading about disorders online...

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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