Sep. 22, 1998 San Antonio, TX -- Children who are deaf or hearing-impaired often receive rehabilitation and therapy that addresses only the hearing loss. However, injury or trauma to the cochlea, or inner ear, may have a significant impact on the vestibular function, resulting in accompanying balance disorders. Therefore, any therapy or rehabilitation for deaf children should also consider a possible balance deficit along with hearing loss. This is the conclusion of a team of ear, nose, and throat specialists who compared the differences in balance skills of the hearing impaired and normal-hearing children.
Andrea E. P. Kittrell, MD; Marian Giarardi, MA; Horst R. Konrad, MD; Larry F. Hughes, Ph.D.; and Mary Neill, MA CCC-A, all from the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield, IL, conducted this research study. Their findings will be presented during the 1998 American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) Annual Meeting and OTO Expo, being held September 13-16 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, TX.
Twenty-six children between the ages of six and 12 were selected for this study. Eleven of the children displayed bilateral profound sensorineural hearing impairment; 15 children had normal hearing. None of the study subjects had a history of visual disturbance, balance or vestibular disorders, head trauma, or other neurological or developmental disorders.
The vestibular test battery included electronystagmography testing of the horizontal vestibulo-ocular reflex and ocular motoring function. Balance and motor skills were assessed using the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency. The various tests in this series included standing on one leg, walking along a line on the floor, bouncing and catching a ball, as well as coordinated arm and hand movements.
Differences were found between the hearing-impaired and the control subjects in both vestibular and balance function. They were:
The deaf children scored lower in all components of the balance testing. This is significant because the clinical measures of balance function, such as one-foot standing, are affected by the loss of vestibular function.
No difference between the two study groups could be found in motor coordination (bilateral coordination and upper limb coordination).
The vestibular test battery revealed differences in lower oscillation frequency response between normal and hearing impaired children. This indicated a degree of asymmetrical damage to the vestibular systems of these children.
The researchers conclude that the association between hearing impairment and ear-related balance disorders recommends that treatment for the primary condition, loss of hearing, address the accompanying loss of balance.
The American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery Foundation Annual Meeting and OTO Expo is being held in San Antonio, TX, from September 13-16. More than 8,000 participants are expected for scientific sessions, exhibits, posters, and a research program.
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