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BIRMINGHAM – Children’s of Alabama now has the equipment necessary for audiologists to diagnose vestibular disorders which may occur as the result of a variety of conditions including concussion and sensorineural hearing loss.
The equipment includes videonystagmography (VNG) testing designed to document a person’s ability to follow visual objects with their eyes and measure how well the eyes respond to information from the vestibular system. The tests are conducted using a rotational chair, video head impulse test (vHIT) and vestibular evoked myogenic potential (VEMP). Test results support disciplines currently treating vestibular-related diagnoses at Children's, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, sports medicine, rehabilitation medicine, concussion team, otolaryngology and others.
The equipment is used in Children’s Hearing and Speech department and makes Children’s the first facility in the state to offer comprehensive clinical pediatric vestibular and balance services. It was purchased in part by monies received from Wells Fargo through its annual Picks for Kids campaign, which donates $1,000 to Children’s every time a University of Alabama and Auburn University football football player makes an interception.
“Until the last 10 years, little was known about the prevalence of vestibular and balance impairments in pediatric populations,” said Jill Smith, director of the Hearing and Speech. “Not only do children lack the vocabulary necessary to accurately describe symptomology associated with vestibular and balance impairments like vertigo, but many of these impairments often manifest in the form of visual disturbance, headache, clumsiness or even a learning disability, making the recognition and/or diagnosis of vestibular and balance impairment quite difficult for both parents and physicians alike.”
In April of 2016, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) funded a study which suggested that more than one in 20 (5 percent) U.S. children may have vestibular and balance impairment. Children with hearing impairment are two times more likely to have vestibular and/or balance impairment compared to children with normal hearing.
Smith said Children’s goal is to target post-concussion patients who continue to have difficulty with balance and/or dizziness after the initial concussion as well as children with hearing loss.
“The equipment purchased with the Wells Fargo funds will not only be used for concussion and cochlear implant patients, but any child who experiences balance difficulty and needs diagnostic evidence prior to physical therapy, occupational therapy, surgery or other treatment,” she said. “During 2016, the equipment was purchased and training started with the audiologists. The coordination between audiology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, sports medicine, rehabilitation medicine and otolaryngology will continue as patients are identified, tested and progress in therapy.”
Since 1911, Children’s of Alabama has provided specialized medical care for ill and injured children, offering inpatient and outpatient services throughout central Alabama. Ranked among the best pediatric medical centers in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s provided care for youngsters from every county in Alabama, 41 other states and eight foreign countries last year, representing more than 677,000 outpatient visits and more than 15,000 inpatient admissions. With more than 2 million square feet, Children’s is the third largest pediatric medical facility in the U.S. More information is available at childrensal.org.