As a member of the 65+ years old cohort, I have a keen interest in statements about health and wellness issues purportedly common to my age group. I already knew that seniors tend to have higher blood pressure levels, greater chances of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The list goes on to include thinner bones, greater incidence of tinnitus, and less high-frequency sound sensitivity. Now I can add dizziness to the list.
According to researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, based in Gothenburg, Sweden, more than 50% of people older than 65 suffer from dizziness and balance problems. An earlier Medscape report updated in 2017 states that the overall incidence of vertigo, imbalance, and dizziness is 5-10% for all ages but 40% in adults 40 years and older. Falling, which is often related to dizziness, is the most frequent cause of fatal injury among the elderly, 1 in 4 of whom fall each year.
Dizziness and balance problems can stem from various causes. Identifying the correct source of dizziness gives physicians the best chance of effective treatment. The current standard test for dizziness is the Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potentials (VEMP) test. It relies on the common relationship between hearing and balance. In the VEMP procedure, loud sounds evoke a muscular reflex contraction of neck and eye muscles. According to Marcello Cherchi, MD Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Med, patients often report that the VEMP is uncomfortably loud, but the test is not dangerous. The sounds are usually about 95 decibels, or about as loud as a lawnmower.
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology report using a vibrating bone conduction wearable device to test dizziness with better results than the VEMP test without needing to endure lawn-mower-loud clicks or tones in your ears for 60 to 90 seconds. The dizziness testing wearable transforms sound waves into vibrations through the skull. The vibrations stimulate the cochlea in the same manner as sound waves. According to the Chalmers team, the bone conduction test, instead of sounding like a machine gun going off next to your ear, can use tones 40 decibels lower than the VEMP test. This device can also be used to test children’s hearing and with people who have chronic ear infections or congenital bone malformations. The group published the results of their work in the journal Medical Devices: Evidence and Research.
Designed to produce metrics similar to the VEMP test, the dizziness wearable device is also easier to use in testing and lower in cost than the standard. Any time a wearable is more accurate, easier, less costly, and more comfortable, it sounds as though we have a 4-way win.