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Johnson Audiology is pleased to announce the opening of the Johnson Audiology Balance Clinic at its office in Hixson. The Balance Clinic will offer comprehensive evaluation and testing for children (5 years and older) and for adults to determine the cause of a person's dizziness or balance issues in order to map a course for treatment, management and/or rehabilitation. 

At some point in life, most of us have experienced an episode of dizziness or vertigo, where you feel like you are spinning or the world around you is spinning or you simply feel off balance. It certainly is not a pleasant sensation. For many, it is more than just a passing bout of dizziness or unsteadiness; instead, it is a recurring condition. In fact, 35% of Americans 40 years of age and older have experienced issues with their balance to the point it is disruptive to daily life and results in significant health-related costs. A condition with such prevalence and that affects an age range from young children to geriatric adults must certainly have easily accessible testing and treatment options available throughout the United States, right? The opposite is the case. For those living in the Chattanooga region that is about to change.

How essential is your balance (vestibular) system? It is essential for your body's normal movement, equilibrium and knowing where you are in space. It is responsible for providing the brain with information about your body's motion, your head's position, and your natural ability to maintain your body orientation relative to the ground; this, in turn, allows you to control motor functions so that you can maintain your balance, stabilize your head, eyes, and body during movement, and maintain your posture.

"Many people recognize that our inner ears and brain work together to give us our sense of hearing, but many don't realize that our inner ear also is where our balance comes from," said Dr. Allison Coltisor, a clinical and research audiologist, who is directing Johnson Audiology's new Balance Clinic. She continued, "A person's balance system is perhaps one of the most important and yet overlooked sensory system. Within the medical field, general practitioners and even specialists do not necessarily receive extensive training on the balance system or how to identify or treat balance problems."

Dr. Coltisor mentioned that the professionals with the most training in balance are audiologists, otolaryngologists, more commonly known as ear, nose and throat (ENT) physicians and a small number of advanced practice nurse practitioners. "Often when people experience a case of dizziness for the first time or begin to have ongoing issues with balance, their first visit is usually to the emergency room (ER) or their primary care doctor. Many people who wind up in the ER with dizziness are given a medication, like Meclizine, and they are sent on their way," Dr. Coltisor said. "The root cause of the person's dizziness may not be addressed. We are so excited to bring comprehensive testing for dizziness and balance problems to people in the Chattanooga and East Tennessee region to help patients find out why they are dizzy or unsteady. For some patients, we can offer treatment in-office for issues like positional dizziness. For everything else, we have a strong network of specialty providers we can refer patients to for their specific cause of dizziness or unsteadiness."

"Dizziness or imbalance can result from many things and can affect people at any age," Dr. Coltisor said. "Everything from diabetic neuropathy, to bad eyesight, to the side effects of chemotherapy, to migraines can bring on dizziness or unsteadiness. Literally dozens of factors could contribute to a balance problem. That's why it is so important to identify each individual patient's situation and tailor-make a plan of action for that person."

Dr. Coltisor noted, "Having a compromised balance system can put a person on a path to having frequent falls. This can lead to bruises, sprains, broken bones, head injuries, or worse. Frequent falls or even the fear of falling often become a progressive downward spiral for a person as falls can mean hospital stays, an end to living independently, social and physical decline, feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and depression."

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) publicizes the following statistics:

·         One in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year.

·         Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.

·         Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.

"Unfortunately, patients, their families and even a patient's medical providers often dismiss balance issues as an inevitable part of the aging process or, for children, they may just chalk it up to the child just being 'clumsy'," Dr. Coltisor said. She encourages anyone who is experiencing dizziness or imbalance to address it at first onset with an audiologist, otolaryngologist, or advanced practice nurse practitioner with specialized training in balance disorders.

Dr. Coltisor currently is accepting patients at the Johnson Audiology Hearing and Balance Clinic in Hixson and mentioned that many insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover all or portions of the testing. Call today for more information or to schedule an appointment at 423.713.5266.


Testing offered at the Johnson Audiology Balance Clinic

·         Sinusoidal Harmonic Acceleration testing (also known as rotational chair testing)

·         Videonystagmography

·         Ocular and Cervical Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potentials

·         Related screening testing

What is vestibular migraine?

Vestibular migraine, or migrainous vertigo, is a special type of migraine that may or may not cause a headache. It can, however, include various debilitating symptoms affecting the ears, eyes, and balance. It is the second most common cause of vertigo. Dr. Allison Coltisor, of the Johnson Audiology Hearing and Balance Clinic, said, "Whether we are looking at children or adults, one of the more common causes of dizziness is vestibular migraine. Many are not familiar with it because It has only recently been formally recognized. Ask any neurologist or ear, nose and throat physician, and they will tell you that the term has been around for a long time, but only in the past decade has it been included and described as its own type of migraine in the International Headache Society's (HIS) classification manual for migraine and headache." If you think you might have vestibular migraine, call the Johnson Audiology Balance Clinic to schedule an appointment.

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Megan Johnson, Au.D., F-AAA (l) and Allison Coltisor, Au.D., CCC-A are currently accepting patients at the Johnson Audiology Balance Clinic in Hixson