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Vestibular screening test

Children with a permanent hearing loss, delayed development or children who fall frequently may be offered a screen of their balance system as part of their general investigations. Some hearing loss can be associated with poor balance.

What causes balance issues?

Your sense of balance is controlled by a system that brings together information from the eyes, the movement sensors in the joints (known as proprioception), and the balance organs in the inner ears. If any part of this system is faulty or upset, the brain is unable to put all the information together and a child may have poor balance, dizziness or be delayed in developing their gross motor skills.

What is involved in vestibular function screen?

The tests help to find whether your child has a balance problem that comes from the organs in the ears.

We look at the balance system in the ear and brain using some simple tests, during which special goggles are worn which allow us to watch and record their eye movements.

The tests we do will depend on the age and cooperation level of your child. Tests may involve simply watching the movement of a small light on a screen in front of you or wearing a pair of goggles whilst we move their head.

We will require the child to open their eyes to measure their movement even if they are feeling dizzy.

Parental involvement during testing

We will sit your child on a special chair which rotates so we can check their eye movements in response to the chair movement. Younger children may need to sit on a parent’s knee for this test and therefore some parents may feel dizzy during this testing. Please speak with your audiologist if you have concerns about this.

Where does the vestibular function screen take place?

The tests are done in the Hearing Services department at Sheffield Children’s Hospital where there is a room with the special equipment we need for the tests.

How long will the tests take?

The screen usually takes about an hour, but you may need to allow an hour and a half so that we can ask you and your child about aspects of their balance, complete testing and discuss the results afterwards. Our experienced and friendly staff will explain clearly what you need to do before each test, and will answer any questions that you have.

What will happen next?

Normal results

No further testing is required. We will post home a clinical letter explaining the results.

Incomplete testing

We may wish to repeat the tests again when your child is older or able to tolerate the goggles for a longer time.

Results suggest a vestibular imbalance

  • More testing maybe required, this will be discussed at the screening appointment.
  • Referral to other services such as neurology or Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT).
  • They may be seen by ourselves for vestibular rehabilitation.

Please confirm whether you are going to be able to attend the appointment or not. If you are unable to attend your appointment, please let us know as soon as possible, so that the appointment can then be given to someone else who needs it.

If you would like to ask any more questions about the tests or let us know if you or your child has any specific needs, please phone us.

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the hearing services on 0114 271 7450 or email scn-tr.audiology@nhs.net

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Disclaimer

Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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NHS

Western Bank
Sheffield
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

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