The Impact of Hearing Loss on Older Adult’s Postural Control and Gait Function




Kowalewski, Victoria
Fox, Jordan
Thibodeau, Linda
Patterson, Rita
Bugnariu, Nicoleta


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Purpose: We investigated the relationship between hearing loss and postural control and balance in older adults using a dual task paradigm in a realistic virtual environment. We also evaluated the effect of two types of Hearing Aid (HA) technologies on measures of balance and gait. We used a regular HA that amplifies sound from all directions and frequencies and a Frequency Modulator (FM) system designed to work in conjunction with the regular HA and to selectively amplifies only one frequency of interest and not the ambient noise. Materials/Methods: 12 adults newly diagnosed with hearing loss, without vestibular or other neurologic impairment; 12 age- and gender- matched healthy controls. Participants were tested for balance, gait and functional activities, at the time of hearing loss diagnosis and enrollment in the study and after two months accommodation to a hearing aid. Outcome measures included: standing center of pressure sway during quiet standing, performance of dual task involving balance + auditory standardize testing, and self- selected gait speed on flat and uneven terrain in the virtual environment. Testing conditions were: No HA, HA, Ha + FM; auditory task conditions either listening only or repeating back sentences form standard audiology tests. Clinical tests of DGI, TUG, ABC Scale and Short Physical Performance Battery were also administered. ANOVA was conducted for each of the dependent variables with respect to group, condition of HA, and condition of auditory task. Results: Center of pressure sway variability in both A/P and M/L direction was increased (p Conclusions: Hearing loss negatively impacts postural control particularly in dual-task conditions when individuals attend to both auditory and postural tasks. Use of hearing aids, especially the FM system, significantly improves not only speech recognition but also measures of balance and gait, and ability to successfully perform dual tasks.


Research Appreciation Day Award Winner - 2017 School of Health Professions - Best Physical Therapist Poster Presentation