The Contribution of Hearing and Hearing Loss to Balance Control

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Abstract

This study investigated the hypothesis that a hearing ‘map’ of our surroundings is used to maintain balance control. We investigated the effects of sound on postural sway using centre of pressure analysis in 50 subjects with normal hearing, 28 with hearing loss and 19 with vestibular dysfunction. The acoustic environments utilized sound cues that were either present or absent. It was found that auditory cues are utilized by subjects with normal hearing to improve postural sway. The ability to utilize sound for postural control is diminished when there is a hearing loss, but this appears to be overcome by the use of a hearing aid. Patients with additional vestibular deficits exploit auditory cues to a greater degree, suggesting that sensory weighting to enhance the use of auditory cues may be applied when there is diminished sensory redundancy.

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