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Kristen Janky, Project 5

Project 5 is under the direction of Kristen Janky. The purpose of this project is to understand the consequences of vestibular loss in children. It is responsible for helping with balance and maintaining clear vision during movement. When adults have problems with their inner ear vestibular system, they report dizziness, imbalance, and difficulty seeing clearly during head movement. It is not known if children have the same complaints when they have problems with their inner ear vestibular system. Vestibular issues are not common in children; however, vestibular issues can occur in children with hearing loss, specifically children with cochlear implants.

In this lab, children perform tests of balance and vision. These studies can help researchers and clinicians understand how the inner ear vestibular system affects development and everyday activities in children. For children, problems with the inner ear vestibular system could result in balance problems (i.e., gross motor development delays) as well as difficulty seeing and reading, which may impair classroom learning and academic success.

This project has two Specific Aims:

Aim 1: Characterize Vestibular Loss and its Relationship with Gross Motor Performance in Children with Hearing Loss.

For these experiments, we will test how the vestibular system in the inner ear works. We will test children with hearing loss (those with cochlear implants) and children with normal hearing. Children will also complete tests of balance, such as walking, standing, standing on one leg, etc. We hope to learn: 1) how the inner ear vestibular system and our ability to maintain balance matures, and changes as we get older; 2) the number of children with cochlear implants who have problems with their inner ear vestibular system; and 3) how problems with the inner ear vestibular system affect balance.

Aim 2: Characterize the Effect of Vestibular Loss on Visual Acuity in Children with Hearing Loss.

​Being able to see clearly is necessary for many activities of daily living. Difficulty seeing clearly could cause poor academic performance and reduced quality of life. For children who have problems with their inner ear vestibular system, these issues may extend beyond the difficulties related to hearing loss alone. For these experiments, we will test how well children can see while sitting, standing and shaking their head. We hope to learn whether problems with the inner ear vestibular system causes problems with seeing clearly in children.

The research completed in this project could impact the early identification of problems with the inner ear vestibular system in children. This project could also lead to intervention strategies that could help with balance, vision, academic and social development in children with vestibular loss.