January 20, 2019

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ACMC Hearing & Balance Center: Celebrating Five Years of Success, Part 2

Creating Balance for Our Patients

ACMC’s Hearing & Balance Center, in Willmar, Minn., filled a big gap in vestibular medicine when it began treating dizziness and balance disorders five years ago. Prior to 2007 the nearest balance center was more than 70 miles away and required a referral to make an appointment.

ACMC’s Hearing & Balance Center provides vestibular testing and rehabilitation to southwest and west central Minnesota. Physician referrals are welcome, but not required for an appointment. At the Hearing & Balance Center patients are seen for a variety of unique symptoms such as:

  • dizziness or motion sickness/sensitivity caused by the inner ear conditions
  • dizziness and/or imbalance due to stroke, brain injuries and/or migraine activity
  • dizziness and/or imbalance caused by diseases and infections.

The Hearing & Balance Center is made up of a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals, including board certified otolaryngologists (ears, nose and throat doctors), audiologists and physical therapists specialized in vestibular rehabilitation who work together to provide a diagnosis and a plan of care to treat each individual. With state of the art equipment—the same equipment that is used at larger, urban healthcare facilities—we are able to test the different components that make up normal balance abilities. This technology allows the team to determine the most effective treatment approach for dizziness and to design custom exercise programs to restore balance.

Treatment of dizziness varies depending from where a patient’s dizziness stems. Balance or vestibular rehabilitation often includes exercises to retrain the brain to listen to cues coming from the inner ear motion sensors. For some patients improving the strength and flexibility of their legs is the key to restoring balance and preventing falls. Because we spend time teaching patients how normal balance works, when we review the results of their balance tests, they understand how each plays an important role in their complete recovery. Depending on the needs of the individual, some only require a visit or two, but others may come once a week for two to three months. We work with each patient to figure out what approach is best for their condition and fits their lifestyle.

The goal is always the same: to restore the patient’s ability to participate in their daily activities, safely and symptom-free. Once we meet that goal, the patient is ready for a home-maintenance program, consisting of two to three home exercises to keep their balance in working order.

Every patient has their own unique dizziness and balance story.  Working one-on-one with each patient allows us to get to know them and their specific circumstances. In turn the patient learns more about their condition and how their lifestyle and habits can play an important role in their recovery.

Since its inception five years ago, the Hearing & Balance Center has helped more than 1,500 patients. Working to stop dizziness, restore balance and prevent falls is what we specialize in—and what we do best day in and day out.

Today many of our patients have been successfully treated. It is always encouraging to meet new patients referred to the Hearing & Balance Center by someone who experienced relief as a previous patient. Restoring an individual’s balance restores their confidence and the ability to live safely and independently. Balance is something most of us take for granted. In the bigger picture it is vitally important, making for healthier, safer and thriving multi-generational communities.

We have seen great growth at ACMC’s Hearing & Balance Center in the first five years as a department at ACMC and individually as providers. As we look toward the future, we will continue to strive to provide the most comprehensive services by implementing the use of cutting-edge technologies, as they become available, to help people with dizziness and balance issues in our communities.

Anna’s Patient Success Story

I was just 56 years old when I had a stroke. I was hospitalized for more than a month before being transferred to a nursing home to recover so I would be allowed to return home. I had physical therapy and home exercises to regain my strength and walk independently, but my stroke left me with dizziness if I tipped my head back and imbalance that didn’t get better. It seemed to plateau, and I worried I was going to have to live with it. A year and a half later, I asked my doctor about a referral to the Hearing & Balance Center.  I had balance testing completed and started treatment once a week and bumped it up to two times a week to help make faster progress. Tami told me to expect that it may take up to a year to see maximum improvements as my brain continued to re-learn how to use the information from my eyes, ears and pressure sensors in my feet. Some of the home exercises were meant to gradually desensitize me from the dizziness sensation I would get if I looked up.  I was committed to the treatments and home exercises, because I could feel my balance gradually improving.  Patience goes a long way in your treatment.  After six months of treatment at the Hearing & Balance Center, I was ready to continue on my own.  My confidence was back, and I was able to do things like climb bleachers without holding onto my husband or a railing for the first time in over two years.  I’m thankful to have been blessed with a team who really cared about me and the process it took to restore my balance.

Click here for more information about vestibular disorders.