The Association between Hearing Loss, Postural Control, and Mobility in Older Adults: A Systematic Review

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Abstract

Background:

Degraded hearing in older adults has been associated with reduced postural control and higher risk of falls. Both hearing loss (HL) and falls have dramatic effects on older persons’ quality of life (QoL). A large body of research explored the comorbidity between the two domains.

Purpose:

The aim of the current review is to describe the comorbidity between HL and objective measures of postural control, to offer potential mechanisms underlying this relationship, and to discuss the clinical implications of this comorbidity.

Data Collection and Analysis:

PubMed and Google Scholar were systematically searched for articles published in English up until October 15, 2015, using combinations of the following strings and search words: for hearing: Hearing loss, “Hearing loss,” hearing, presbycusis; for postural control: postural control, gait, postural balance, fall, walking; and for age: elderly, older adults.

Results:

Of 211 screened articles, 7 were included in the systematic review. A significant, positive association between HL and several objective measures of postural control was found in all seven studies, even after controlling for major covariates. Severity of hearing impairment was connected to higher prevalence of difficulties in walking and falls. Physiological, cognitive, and behavioral processes that may influence auditory system and postural control were suggested as potential explanations for the association between HL and postural control.

Conclusions:

There is evidence for the independent relationship between HL and objective measures of postural control in the elderly. However, a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms underlying this relationship is yet to be elucidated. Concurrent diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of these two modalities may reduce falls and increase QoL in older adults.

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