Video: Norfolk hospital’s Wii study to help cure vertigo

Diane Sostman tries out the Wii Fit being used in research into balance problems at the Balance Clinic at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, under the guidance of Claire Gatenby, chief hearing therapist. Picture: Denise Bradley Diane Sostman tries out the Wii Fit being used in research into balance problems at the Balance Clinic at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, under the guidance of Claire Gatenby, chief hearing therapist. Picture: Denise Bradley

Adam Gretton Health correspondent adam.gretton@archant.co.uk
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
6:31 AM

Therapists at Norfolk’s biggest hospital have begun a study to see whether playing a computer games console can cure people with balance problems.

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Vertigo and dizziness affects one in ten people and severe balance problems can lead to sufferers being house-bound and unable to work.

Staff at the ear, nose and throat department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital have bought half a dozen Wii Fit consoles to see whether playing interactive exercise games like table tilt, ski jumping and tight rope, can speed up a patient’s recovery.

The hospital in Colney has recruited around 20 patients to trial a study looking at whether playing a Wii Fit twice a day is quicker than the recognised series of exercises prescribed to people with balance problems. The hospital’s balance clinic was established ten years ago and helps around 250 patients a year.

Claire Gatenby, chief hearing therapist, said people with balance problems usually undergo around six months of exercises to improve their centre of gravity, but it was too early to tell whether the patients sent home with the interactive consoles had recovered quicker. The results of the Wii Fit research should be known by the end of the year.

“Having a balance problem is like being spun around for two hours and not knowing whether you are upside down or not. Some people are so severely affected that can not get out of bed and have to crawl around on their hands and knees. It has real big impact on confidence and you are constantly worried about whether you are going to fall over,” said Mrs Gatenby.

Staff at the balance clinic use infra-red video camera technology to record patients’ eye movements and look at the function of brain signals involved in balance. If their inner ear is contributing to balance problems, patients are offered a series of exercises that are carried out to re-train the brain.

Mrs Gatenby added: “At first people are sceptical about how doing exercises can help, but they quickly see the benefits, and begin to feel better doing all the activities they have avoided.”

Marie Tuttle, from Hockering, who was cured of her balance problem with help from the Wii Fit exercises, said: “When things were bad I couldn’t walk my dog on my own because I was scared of falling over and I was really disorientated, especially in the dark. It can make you feel very depressed. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and I can walk down the road without being wobbly now. I’d certainly say to anyone with a balance problem, go and get help because it’s worth it.”

Do you suffer severe balance problems? Email health correspondent Adam Gretton at adam.gretton@archant.co.uk or call 01603 772419.

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