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BalanceBelt to be launched on the market

december 16, 2018

Fifteen years of hard work have gone into the completion of the technical aspects of the idea behind the balance belt. This BalanceBelt will be put into production in the coming year. This solution can help many patients with balance disorders keep their footing. We owe it all to the tireless efforts of Professor Dr. Herman Kingma.

The day in early November that it became clear the BalanceBelt will actually be making its way to patients was a joyous one for Prof. Dr. Herman Kingma, a clear milestone. Specialized in equilibrium and the vestibular system and the only professor of clinical vestibulology in the Netherlands, the vestibulologist is affiliated with Maastricht University.

Fifteen years of hard work have gone into the completion of the technical aspects of his idea, the BalanceBelt. Clinical pilot studies have shown that the concept works. Recently, it became clear that the product will finally be making its way to the industry. The belt helps patients with vestibular system problems to keep more control over their balance. It enables them to take a more active part in their lives, and see a substantial improvement in their quality of life. 

Large group

The vestibular system is what regulates our sense of balance. Whenever people are at risk of losing their balance, for whatever reason, this system will immediately correct their posture. People whose vestibular system doesn’t work properly rarely have this “automatic” balance-correcting mechanism. They (literally) lose their balance, get very dizzy and nauseated and risk falling. One out of five people will suffer a disturbance of their equilibrium to a greater or lesser degree. Twenty-five percent of all people 65 and older suffer from an impaired vestibular system. 

Vibrating alerts

Developed at Herman Kingma’s initiative, the BalanceBelt helps this group of patients. They no longer have the sensation that their body is at risk of tilting. Worn around the waist, the belt has over ten small vibration motors placed around its circumference that emit a vibrating alert if their bodies risk getting thrown off balance.

Thanks to the improved information on their posture, the wearer of the belt subconsciously corrects their posture themselves. Herman Kingma estimates that several thousand people in the Netherlands alone could really benefit from the BalanceBelt.Forty patients tried the BalanceBelt in a clinical trial, both during consultation hours at the hospital as well as at home in their own surroundings. The results are a source of satisfaction: the BalanceBelt does what it says it will do. People are less afraid of falling and feel more self-confident, encouraging them to take part in daily life.

Teamwork

For 15 years, several different parties at the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus have worked on the development and completion of the BalanceBelt. It is a textbook example of how an idea grows to become a concrete product the way people working at a valorisation campus naturally like to see this happen.
One of these parties is IDEE, the engineering division of Maastricht University that helps researchers turn their ideas into a technical reality. A team from Maastricht Instruments was also involved in the brainstorming and optimization process for BalanceBelt. The goal has always been to give as many people as possible the chance to use the BalanceBelt. The best way to make this possible is to have the BalanceBelt produced by a company with experience in wearable applications for tactile feedback. 

Prescription

As a representative of Maastricht University and the Maastricht UMC+, Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus is transferring the licensing rights and the results from the clinical study to the company Elitac BV, based in Utrecht. Elitac specializes in the development of haptic wearables and is developing the BalanceBelt to get it to the final-product stage. The objective is for the BalanceBelt to be available to patients by the end of 2019, and is expected to help several thousand patients each year.
The idea is for patients to have access to the BalanceBelt through prescriptions written by ENT doctors. In consultation with health care insurers, a decision will still have to be made whether all or part of the costs of the BalanceBelt will be reimbursed.

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About Herman Kingma

Originally trained as a quantum biophysicist, Professor Herman Kingma is one of the most renowned specialists worldwide in the field of balance disorders. Kingma was the initiator behind what is now a global standardization of clinical diagnostics in balance disorders, and was one of the developers of the vestibular implant. (source: Maastricht University)

He is not only a walking encyclopedia when it comes to our vestibular system, he is also involved in pioneering research on balance disorders. In 2011, he won the Ignoble Nobel Prize (an alternative to the famous Nobel Prize) which is awarded to researchers who not only make people laugh, but also make them think. (source: Universiteit van Nederland)

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