Time and over again, it is only tiny gadgets that have changed the lives of millions of people around the world. Researchers have developed a small device resembling a MP3 player that has been designed to help people with balance disorder, by giving the wearer's brain more balance input.
It could perhaps some day be even used to improve the performance of athletes. Loss of balance or vestibular disorders, a common result of ototoxicity, can affect people of all ages and all walks of life. It usually manifests in the form of dizziness, imbalance and visual disturbance. This dizziness could indicate damage to the inner ear of both ears that results in bilateral vestibular loss.
Worn on the belt, it contains sensors that detect when the person sways outside a vertical "safe zone". A computer then converts that information into musical tones played through headphones, which get louder the further they sway from vertical and using stereo sound to indicate the direction of the sway.
Patients learn that different tones correspond to different directions of sway, so they can correct their posture before falling over. With enough training, the tones replace missing balance information that the brain normally receives from a nerve in the inner ear.
The study, which, included nine people with balance disorders and normal controls revealed significant improvement in the stability status with usage of the device.
The audio feedback from the device was seen to reduce a person's sway by nearly 25 percent, enabling the balance disorder sufferers to stay within the "safe zone" nearly three times longer.
It is hoped that the device will enable people with balance disorders manage their condition themselves. It has also been proposed to make the device much smaller and more user-friendly.
Source: Indo-Asian News Service