WYNNEWOOD, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Around the clock, mechanisms in our bodies work silently to keep our balance. As we age, those systems can develop problems.
They can be brought back in line through specialized rehab.
The first insult to Jay Sklar's balance came from a bus accident.
"I was bruised and battered. But the only permanent thing was my left inner ear," Jay recalls, "There are fibers in the ear that help balance and they were destroyed."
"We're gonna put this on like a jacket," says the physical therapist strapping Jay into a harness.
His balance became a crisis after another head injury and a brain infection.
"I couldn't walk at all. I had to hold onto the bushes to get home," Jay remembers.
He found help with Sheri Klock, D.P.T., a vestibular rehab therapist at Main Line Health's Bryn Mawr Rehab office in Wynnewood.
Symptoms like dizziness, lightheadedness, falling or staggering can be due to malfunctions in the balance system.
Medications, and conditions like diabetes, stroke, or blood vessel disorders can also cause problems.
Balance actually has three components - the feet, the eyes... "Seeing where we are in space," says Klock. And tiny hair cells in our inner ear, the vestibular system.
"Our brain determines what needs to happen in the body to maintain a sense of balance and equilibrium," she explains.
Klock says we usually rely more on the feet, followed by the eyes, then the inner ear.
"If you have a vestibular dysfunction, it's important for you to see somebody who has the training to treat that," she says.
The moving walls and floor in the Balance Master booth help her see how Jay's eyes and feet work together.
Specialized goggles look for abnormal eye patterns.
"How the eyes move relative to the head. So how the eyes and inner ear interact together," Klock notes.
The devices are also used as part of individualized training to improve balance control.
"If they have some permanent damage, we might need to focus on compensatory strategies, you know, so that they can be safe," she says.
There are also home exercises, which the 80-year-old Jay credits for his success.
"They gave me a list of exercises, which I still do," he says.
"Before breakfast, before dinner. I do the exercises, try to walk twice a day," Jay says, adding, "And I'll be 81 this year. I have the confidence to walk. I walked about a mile this morning like I do every morning."