The Effects of Hearing Loss on Postural Control in Older Adults




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


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Purpose/Hypothesis: We investigated the relationship between hearing loss and gait in adults using advanced virtual reality technologies, as well as evaluated the effects 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 and 12 age- and gender- matched healthy controls participated in the study. Participants were tested for balance, gait, and functional activities at the time of hearing loss diagnosis and enrollment in the study, as well as after two months accommodation to a hearing aid. Outcome measures included: standing COP sway, performance of dual-task involving cognitive decisions, 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 SPPB 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 M/L direction was significantly 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, gait, and the ability to successfully perform dual-tasks. Individuals with hearing loss may be at greater risk of falling than individuals without hearing loss; therefore, further studies are necessary.


Research Appreciation Day Award Winner - 2016 Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine Awards - 2nd Place Student Research Award