Balancing Breakthrough

The last place you might think to look for an ear problem is in your eyes. But examining your eyes through Frenzel glasses can help determine how the inner ear is functioning. These high-tech glasses are used to diagnose inner ear conditions that cause dizziness and loss of equilibrium.

Your balance is maintained by the vestibular system, which is located in your inner ear. When something goes awry in the inner ear, you may experience vertigo (a spinning sensation) and/or a general sense of unsteadiness. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe.

“I can’t visualize the vestibular system by looking into someone’s ear because it is very deep and is encapsulated in bone,” says Heather Rose, a physical therapist at NorthBay Rehabilitation Services. “What I can do is examine a person’s eye movements while placing their head in different positions. This will actually tell me how the inner ear is functioning.”

Frenzel glasses are composed of a mask, magnifying glasses, and a video camera. They are used to view and record patterns of involuntary eye movement. A patient wears the mask while a physical therapist moves their head and body through a series of positions. The patient sees only darkness. The mask will magnify the eye and the video camera will transmit the images to a television screen so the eye movements can be analyzed in depth and recorded for the therapist and patient to see. The therapist then uses this information to develop a treatment plan for the patient.

For more information about the vestibular and balance program, call (707) 624-7470.

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