Innervo Technology Develop Retainer To Help People With Balance Disorders

Innervo Technology Develop Retainer To Help People With Balance Disorders
Most people may take it for granted, but the balance is vital to physical activity and our well-being. It is often called a sixth sense and is a delicate system inside our inner ear called vestibular apparatus, sending information about the movement of the head to the brain. In coordination with vision and sensory input from muscles and joints, this feedback help maintain balance of the entire body. Multiple disorders cause degradation or damage to the vestibular sense, causing imbalance, dizziness and vertigo, significantly impacting quality of life for many people. Although vestibular rehabilitation therapy may reduce some of the symptoms through compensation by vision and sensory input, the vestibular function cannot be fully compensated.

The Columbia, Missouri-based startup Innervo Technology is developing a noninvasive device to help patients with vestibular imbalance. Their product, called EquiCue, is a custom-made palate-based intraoral electronic balance aid. The retainer-like device is worn onto the upper teeth, fixed against the hard palate, where it is able to present sensory feedback of head tilting or motion by applying small electrical pulses onto the palatal surface. This alternative feedback provides a stable gravitational reference and help maintain head orientation and postural stability. A complementary wrist watch communicate with the device, enabling the user to wirelessly make adjustments to the device settings.

More than 8 million Americans alone suffer from chronic dizziness due to aging, drug toxicity, viral infections, and surgery, etc. Currently, there is no practical devices available on the market for these patients to compensate for the loss of vestibular function. Innervo is capturing this unique market by offering a wearable retainer that has been shown to dramatically improve balance for patients with profound vestibular loss. The non-invasive, patented device is compact and easy to use, eliminating the need for high-risk and costly inner ear surgery, while allowing free movement of the head and body in indoor and outdoor daily activities. In addition, the intraoral placement of the device also mean that it is not visible, or cause any social stigma.

By improving balance for patients with vestibular loss, the device could significantly improve quality of life for millions around the world. It could enable them to go shopping in supermarkets, take the metro, everyday activities that most of us take for granted, reducing depression, feelings of exclusion and dependence on other people.

Innervo was founded by Hui Tang, who has more than 10 years of experience on development of assistive devices for sensory substitution and rehabilitation, and the startup has received Phase I and Phase II SBIR grants from the National Science Foundation. They have previously demonstrated feasibility of the device, and is currently undergoing a clinical study.