Balance testing clinic

The patient is able to eat and drink as normal, but a light rather than heavy meal before testing would be preferable.

Welcome to the Balance Clinic page of the Audiological Department.

The patient has been referred to us so that we can carry out a series of tests to assess his or her balance function, and to work out what is causing any problems. We aim to make the tests as fun and relaxed as possible for the patient by using a space theme journey.

Preparing for the tests: important information

Please allow plenty of time to travel to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). It is important that you arrive on time for your appointment.

For younger children please let us know their natural sleeping patterns. It is important that the patient is well rested and alert for the tests. This will help us to book a suitable appointment time.

Please make sure that the patient does not wear any facial makeup around the eyes as this can affect the accuracy of the tests.

To help the patient feel at home and relaxed, please feel free to bring along a favourite DVD for us to play while we prepare for testing.

At some stages during testing the patient may experience some feelings of dizziness. We are able to stop testing at any time to give the patient a break, or stop completely if they feel they cannot continue.

Testing is carried out in the dark. If required, you will be able to stay in the testing room with the patient throughout. We monitor the patient at all times using infra-red cameras, and communicate through headphones and a microphone.

For younger children and babies, we may need you to sit in the chair with the patient on your lap.

The tests

We use two test systems at GOSH: the vestibular diagnostic chair and the caloric system.

The patient may have one or the other, or both.

Vestibular chair

For these tests, you and/or the patient will be strapped into a special seat that can turn round. The patient will be connected to some monitors so that we can record his or her eye movements. The patient might wear some special camera goggles, or we may attach some small sticky pad electrodes to his or her head.

In the dark, eye movements are controlled by the balance system. Looking at these movements enables us to assess the patient’s balance function.

In the first phase of tests the chair does not move. The patient will be asked to follow a red dot as it moves about on the screen in front of him or her. Next some black and white stripes will move across the screen to the right and left.

The second phase involves the chair moving from side to side, and spinning completely round to the left and to the right. Finally we may tilt the chair and turn it round to the left then right. All these movements happen quite slowly and we can stop testing at any time to give you or the patient a break.

Caloric system

For this test, we will ask the patient to lie on a couch and look up at some coloured lights on the ceiling. We will trickle some cold water into one ear for a few seconds, and then the other ear. Next, warm water will be trickled into the patient’s ears in the same way.

The water will stimulate the balance system, causing the patient’s eyes to flicker. This is quite normal. The patient may feel dizzy like on a roundabout, but this will soon pass.


Please allow two hours for this appointment as the tests require preparation and explanation time. We will discuss the patient’s test results once the testing and reporting is complete.

If time does not allow, this will take place at your next appointment, or we may write to you with the results.

Appointment cancellations

Please let us know as soon as possible if you are unable to attend your scheduled appointment. Appointment slots are extremely valuable and this will enable us to offer the tests to another patient

We will find an alternative time for you and your patient to attend.