Friday, December 11, 2009
Medical Reports: Balance Cap
Whether you're riding a bike or just walking down the street, balance is something you probably take for granted, but two-million people in the U.S. live with chronic imbalance that puts them at risk for falls and injury. Now new headgear may help. 7s Diana Diaz has details in today's Healthcast.
WSVN -- Amy Bianco can't get up a stairway without dragging her arm along the wall
Amy Bianco: "I have to make sure I'm either holding on to a hand rail, or I'll slide my elbow and stuff along the wall something to keep my balance. Otherwise, I will lose my balance and I don't want to fall."
Doctors aren't sure how or when but Amy lost her vestibular system, the inner ear mechanism that helps her balance.
Dr. Joel Goebel: "And that's very devastating. People have lost that inner sense of balance and so now they're very reliant on their eyesight, and they're very reliant on the touch on their feet."
So Amy became one of the test patients for a new electronic "cap."
Dr. Joel Goebel: "Now remember, when you move this way it's going to tap, and that's going to tell you to come back this way, and when you go this way, it'll tap to come this way."
The cap sends tapping signals to help her compensate for the equilibrium she's lost
Dr. Joel Goebel: "And I want you to move away from the tapping 'til you get to that center point where you don't feel it anymore."
Practicing in this balance booth signals from the cap can help Amy retrain her brain.
Amy Bianco: "When you hear the tapping, your body just automatically goes the other direction where normally with your falling, you have to think about it first and then, you try to adjust, and sometimes it's too late at that point."
In one study, the cap reduced falls by nearly half.
Dr. Joel Goebel: "They wear it, they practice with it and even now, when it's off, their balance is better."
Amy won't let her problem slow her down she's fighting to keep her balance one step at a time.
Diana Diaz: "Researchers are working on a more compact version of the balance cap. They say a device inside a hat or scarf could be available within two years."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Washington University School of Medicine