“Physiotherapy and other treatments currently available are insufficient for many patients with a severe loss of function”, Prof. Kingma explained. “But then we discovered that haptic feedback – vibrational feedback applied to the body – can help balance disorder patients find their balance again.”
UTRECHT, Netherlands (PRWEB) July 23, 2020
Severe Bilateral Vestibular Loss (BVL) is a disorder in which the balance organs in the inner ears function very poorly or not at all. In these cases, the vestibular (balance) organs provide insufficient information for patients to control their body position in space, causing severe imbalance and difficulty walking. BVL inhibits patients from moving around independently and exercising, potentially leading to feelings of isolation and diminished health as a consequence. The prevalence of severe BVL in the general population has been estimated at a minimum of 81 in 100,000, affecting over 6 million people worldwide. In addition, more than 20% of people over 65 suffer from poor balance caused at least partly by a diminished functioning of the balance organs.
The BalanceBelt aids BVL patients by applying haptic feedback around the waist to improve their perception of body position. The concept was first invented and realised for daily use by Prof. Kingma, of Maastricht University (The Netherlands). “Physiotherapy and other treatments currently available are insufficient for many patients with a severe loss of function”, he explained. “But then we discovered that haptic feedback – vibrational feedback applied to the body – can help balance disorder patients find their balance again.”
Prof. Kingma and the Maastricht University Medical Centre+ (MUMC+) developed the first version of the BalanceBelt together with Maastricht Instruments. After the concept proved its effectiveness in patient trials in 2018, Elitac Wearables was invited to the project to optimise the product design and make it suitable for production at scale. The BalanceBelt contains several tiny vibration motors (tactors) and an accelerometer. It senses the direction the wearer is leaning toward and provides vibrational feedback to improve the perception of their body position. This feedback is interpreted by the wearer’s brain, allowing them to correct their posture and improve balance subconsciously. There is no need to pay conscious attention to the haptic feedback. The belt works stand-alone and can be used continuously for up to 16 hours a day.
Merijn Klarenbeek, co-founder and CEO of Elitac Wearables said, “We were really excited to join this project. This is a great example of a wearable where haptic feedback can deliver incredible added value, especially as the treatment alternatives for BVL are so limited. And we managed to improve the design so that the belt is lightweight and comfortable to wear, while being cost-effective to produce. The feedback from the patient trials was quite moving. Patients commented that the belt gave them back their independence and allowed them to enjoy their lives for the first time in a long while. Some of them even commented that they were able to get out of their wheelchairs and walk again.”
The BalanceBelt is available from today, via Elitac Wearables’ commercial partner Salesco. “We are very excited about making the BalanceBelt internationally available, so a wider range of patients can benefit from an improved quality of life.” Initially, the belt will be distributed via local distributors, BalanceBelt.net, and the Maastricht University Medical Centre+.
About Elitac Wearables
As experts on haptic feedback and the integration of textiles and electronics, Elitac Wearables collaborates with partners to develop wearables from idea to successful products. The company focuses on wearables that add real value and has developed several solutions for the medical, safety, defense and sports markets. By continuously investing in research, Elitac Wearables ensures that it stays ahead of new technological developments.
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