Implant Improves Quality of Life for People with Inner Ear Disorder

For about 1.8 million adults worldwide with bilateral vestibular hypofunction (BVH), which is loss of the inner ears’ sense of balance, walking requires constant attention to avoid a fall. A Johns Hopkins Medicine -designed multichannel vestibular implant helps patients with BVH by electrically bypassing malfunctioning areas of the inner ear and restoring most of their ability to walk, move, and turn their head without dizziness and orient themselves in space. The researchers modified a cochlear implant to — a device that improves hearing loss by electrically stimulating the inner ear’s cochlear nerve — to instead activate the nearby vestibular nerve in response to signals from a motion sensor on the patient’s head. This video shows the dramatic difference in a patient before and after implantation of the device.