Decreased postural control in people with moderate hearing loss

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Abstract

Balance is a complex process that involves multiple sensory integrations. The auditory, visual, and vestibular systems are the main contributors. Hearing loss or hearing impairment may induce inappropriate postural strategies that could affect balance and therefore increase the risk of falling.

The aim of this study was to understand whether hearing loss could influence balance, cervical posture, and muscle activation in the cervical region.

Thirteen patients (61 ± 13 years; 161.8 ± 11.0 cm; 70.5 ± 15.9 kg) with moderate hearing loss (Right ear −60 ± 21 dB; Left ear −61 ± 24 dB) underwent: an audiometric examination, a postural examination (with open and closed eyes) through a stabilometric platform, a cervical ROM examination through a head accelerometer, and a sternocleidomastoid electromyography (EMG) examination.

A linear regression analysis has shown a regression coefficient (R2) 0.76 and 0.69 between hearing loss and the posturographic parameters, on the sagittal sway, with open and closed eyes, respectively. The combination of frontal and sagittal sway is able to explain up to 84% of the variance of the audiometric assessment. No differences were found between right and left hemibody between the audiometric, posturographic, cervical ROM parameters, and in EMG amplitude. ROM and EMG parameters have not shown any significant associations with hearing loss, for both right and left head rotation.

Hearing loss is associated to increased posturographic measures, especially the sagittal sway, underlining a reduced postural control in people with hearing impairments. No association was found between the heads posture and neck activation with hearing loss. Hearing loss may be associated with an increased risk of falls.

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