Bilateral vestibular hypofunction is associated with chronic disequilibrium, postural instability, and unsteady gait owing to failure of vestibular reflexes that stabilize the eyes, head, and body.
A vestibular implant may be effective in alleviating symptoms.
Persons who had had ototoxic (7 participants) or idiopathic (1 participant) bilateral vestibular hypofunction for 2 to 23 years underwent unilateral implantation of a prosthesis that electrically stimulates the three semicircular canal branches of the vestibular nerve.
Clinical outcomes included the score on the Bruininks–Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency balance subtest (range, 0 to 36, with higher scores indicating better balance), time to failure on the modified Romberg test (range, 0 to 30 seconds), score on the Dynamic Gait Index (range, 0 to 24, with higher scores indicating better gait performance), time needed to complete the Timed Up and Go test, gait speed, pure-tone auditory detection thresholds, speech discrimination scores, and quality of life.
We compared participants’ results at baseline (before implantation) with those at 6 months (8 participants) and at 1 year (6 participants) with the device set in its usual treatment mode (varying stimulus pulse rate and amplitude to represent rotational head motion) and in a placebo mode (holding pulse rate and amplitude constant).