The BalanceBelt is a balance belt that uses haptic feedback to help people suffering from severe Bilateral Vestibular Loss of Function maintain their balance and regain their independence. The BalanceBelt is available from today through commercial partner Salesco and associated distributors, and is marketed by Elitac Wearables.

 Bilateral Vestibular Loss of Function

Severe Bilateral Vestibular Loss (BVL) is an abnormality in which the balance organs in the inside of the ears function poorly or not at all. The vestibular (equilibrium) organ then provides insufficient information to patients, making it difficult to control their body position in space. This causes serious imbalance and difficulty in walking. BVL prevents patients from walking around or exercising independently, potentially leading to feelings of isolation and impaired health. Severe BVL has an estimated prevalence of at least 81 in 100,000 people, affecting 6 million people worldwide. More than 20% of people over the age of 65 suffer from imbalance, caused at least in part by decreased functioning of the equilibrium organs.

Haptic feedback

The BalanceBelt helps BVL patients through haptic feedback around the waist to improve the perception of their body position. The concept was invented and developed for daily use by Prof. Kingma, from Maastricht University (Netherlands). “For many patients with severe loss of balance function, physiotherapy and other currently available treatments are not enough,” he explains. “But then we discovered that haptic feedback – vibration signals attached to the body – can help patients with balance disorders regain their balance.”

Prof. Kingma and the Maastricht University Medical Center (MUMC +) developed the first version of the BalanceBelt in collaboration with Maastricht Instruments. After the first patient studies in 2018 proved the effectiveness of the concept, Elitac Wearables was invited to the project to optimize the product design and make it suitable for larger-scale production. The BalanceBelt contains several small vibration motors (tactors) and an accelerometer. The belt senses the direction the wearer is leaning and provides vibration feedback to improve the perception of body position. This feedback is interpreted by the wearer’s brain so that it can correct its posture and unconsciously improve its balance. There is no need to consciously pay attention to haptic feedback. The belt works standalone and can be used continuously for up to 16 hours a day.

Results of patient research

Merijn Klarenbeek, co-founder and CEO of Elitac Wearables: “We were very excited to participate in this project. This is a great example of a wearable where haptic feedback delivers an incredible amount of added value, especially since treatment alternatives to BVL are so limited. We have managed to improve the design so that the belt is now lightweight and comfortable to wear.

At the same time, we can produce cost-effectively. The feedback from the patient survey was moving. Patients reported that the belt had given them back their independence and that they were enjoying life for the first time in a long time. Some even said that they were now able to get out of the wheelchair and walk again. ” The BalanceBelt is available from today through Elitac Wearables’ commercial partner Salesco. “We are very excited about making the BalanceBelt available internationally so that many more patients can benefit from a better quality of life.” Initially, the belt will be sold through local distributors, and Maastricht University Medical Center +.

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