Principal Audiologist Specialist Adult Lead
The Chime balance department has big plans over the next year to revamp and streamline the balance service. We have recently started working with a company called Hypatia, a vestibular training and consulting company founded by Clinical Scientist, Amy Lennox.
Hypatia has been working with a team of consultants and researchers to create new protocols for balance procedures and look at how to incorporate the latest research into better diagnosis and treatment plans for patients. Over the next year, we will be adopting some of the methods that Hypatia uses to make sure that every single one of our patients in Devon receives relevant testing, a diagnosis where possible and a personalised treatment plan that is guaranteed to improve their condition.
Firstly, a little background on dizziness and balance. Your balance organ is in your inner ear and sits next to the Cochlea, your organ of hearing. Our balance system is one of three inputs that tells our brain where we are in relation to everything else in the world. The other inputs are from the eyes and from the proprioceptive system, which is the nerves and muscles in the feet and legs.
Maintaining balance relies on accurate information travelling from these inputs to the brain. If one of these is not working well, the brain receives incorrect information resulting in dizziness and sometimes nausea.
The role of a vestibular specialist audiologist is to assess the inputs specifically from the balance system in the ear and help patients whose balance organ is sending incorrect signals to the brain. We do this either through recalibration of the signals to the brain or by corrective positional manoeuvres, depending on the cause of the dizziness problem.
One of the first things on the Chime-Hypatia agenda is to streamline the diagnostic test battery used in the assessment of dizzy patients. The most recent edition to our test arsenal is video Head Impulse Test (vHIT) equipment, and it was Hypatia who delivered our training on this a few years ago. We are one of the few departments in the South West to have this equipment and it is very effective at testing a large part of the balance system in one go. Hypatia has encouraged us to use vHIT in conjunction with our other equipment more regularly in order to get a really clear picture of the balance system as a whole. The design of the test battery from the model that Hypatia suggests means that every patient will be triaged more effectively, improving the likelihood of an accurate diagnosis.
We are also lucky that Amy Lennox happens to be an expert in the latest balance diagnosis to pique the interest of the vestibular world, Persistent Postural Perceptual Dizziness or 3PD for short. This is a chronic dizzy problem that is usually triggered by an initial episode of vertigo. It causes a sensation of constant movement and imbalance and is often associated with stress and anxiety. The key to helping patients with this balance issue is to truly understand how the brain processes and reacts to perceived balance problems.
Amy’s past work with neurologists in Australia has meant that Hypatia has a wealth of methods used to treat these sorts of patients. We will be working with Hypatia to change our approach to balance rehabilitation by incorporating this knowledge and latest research. Patients with chronic dizzy issues have often been misdiagnosed, been passed from specialist to specialist and had their work, social and family life interrupted. We hope that by creating more effective treatment plans, we can greatly improve their quality of life.
Chime now has the status of Hypatia Specialist Clinic, giving us access to the protocols, appointment strategies and rehabilitation techniques pioneered by Amy. With these changes, our aim to be one of the best vestibular departments in the country and with Hypatia’s help, we will have the confidence and knowledge that we are operating at a world-class level.
Chime will also continue to offer Balance therapy, which involves counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy approaches for those who may be undertaking, or have completed balance rehabilitation.