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Inside Pediatrics Podcast

Dealing with Vestibular Imbalance
Jeff Bailey, RadioMD Staff Writer

Losing your balance is much like being unwillingly caught in a funhouse. Your head feels spinney and you lose your footing because your body can’t properly assess the environmental situation.

Vestibular imbalance is a localized balance issue. The inner ear perceives the world as a funhouse when certain conditions are presented. Vestibular disorder is especially tough to spot in children unless you know the signs.

Hearing loss is one of those underlying symptoms.

“Your organ for hearing is right next to your organ for balance,” explains Jill Smith, an audiologist and Director of the Hearing and Speech Department at Children’s of Alabama. “Children with hearing loss have a 50% greater chance of having dizziness and balance issues.”

Concussion patients are prone to dizziness that should go away over time. Pediatricians often refer children who have felt dizzy for a month or longer. It’s important to determine if the dizziness is the result of the blow or something that could require physical therapy for the vestibular system.

Some seemingly common complaints could indicate a vestibular imbalance in children. For example, a head rush can be normal when getting up, but the room shouldn’t feel like it is spinning. Some children complain of dizziness during certain activities, like hair washing or reading. Balance can affect the ability to ride a bicycle. Not feeling dizzy after a lot of spinning can also be considered a red flag.

Diagnosis & Treatment

A series of tests by an imbalance team can help diagnose the condition. Audiologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, ENTs, and sports medicine and rehabilitation experts work together to deliver the best treatment for a child diagnosed with vestibular imbalance.

A new piece of diagnostic equipment called the rotary chair was recently added to the Hearing and Speech Department at Children’s of Alabama. “We put the child in the chair, then put some goggles on which resemble virtual reality goggles. What the audiologist is looking for is eye movement,” explains Smith. The child’s eyes should shift as the chair slowly spins. It moves at different velocities and can seem like a theme park ride.

Children’s of Alabama has the only comprehensive vestibular imbalance program in the state. Experts are under the same roof, making it easy to give physician and administrative support to children with vestibular issues.

If you have questions or suspect your child is facing vestibular imbalance, email the team of experts at balance@childrensal.org

To listen to an interview with Jill Smith, an audiologist and Director of the Hearing and Speech Department at Children’s of Alabama, please follow this link: https://radiomd.com/childrensalabama/item/36746