Preliminary Findings from Investigations of the Relationship between Hearing and Segmental Orientation during Walking
Several longitudinal studies over the past seven years have found associations between hearing loss and increased falls risk1,2, poor postural control while standing2, increased likelihood of having difficulties with walking3, slower walking speed4 and frailty5. The present studies investigate one possible explanation of the link between hearing, balance, and mobility, being that listeners may change head and trunk orientation when performing a listening task in which potential sound sources are spatially separated. In this presentation, preliminary findings with respect to head and trunk positioning (i.e., segmental orientation) from two independent but related studies will be shared.
In the first study, younger (18-30 years old) and older (60 years old and older) adults with self-reported normal hearing performed a listening task while walking. Participants completed listening tasks in three conditions. In the first condition, participants walked along a 9m path, when they were 5m from the goal were presented with a 1 kHz pure tone from either the left or right speakers and were instructed to orient their head towards the sound source while maintaining a straight walking directory. In the second and third experimental conditions, participants performed a series of sentence recognition tasks while walking in which they were and were not instructed to orient their head position towards the sound source, respectively.
The second study included younger and older adults with self-reported normal hearing, and older adults with poor hearing and who do not use hearing aids. Participants performed a sentence-in-babble recognition task during three experimental conditions: (1) while sitting on a bench, (2) while standing, and (3) while walking along a pathway similar to that of Study 1. In both studies, motion capture technology was used to collect positional information about different parts of the body.
1Lin, F. & Ferrucci, L. (2012). Hearing loss and falls among older adults in the United States. Arch Intern Med, 172(4), 369-371.
2Viljanen, A., Kaprio, J., Pyykko I., Sorri, M., Pajala, S., . . . & Rantanen, T. (2009). Hearing as a predictor of falls and postural balance in older female twins. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 64A(2), 312-317.
3Viljanen, A., Kaprio, J., Pyykko, I., Sorri, M., Koskenvuo, M., & Rantanen, T. (2009). Hearing acuity as a predictor of walking difficulties in older women. J Am Geriatr Soc, 57, 2282-2286.
4Li, L., Simonsick, E., Ferrucci, L., & Lin, F. (2013). Hearing loss and gait speed among older adults in the United States. Gait Posture, 38(1), 25-29.
5Kamil, R., Li, L., & Lin, F. (2014). Association of hearing impairment and frailty in older adults. J Am Geriatr Soc, 62(6), 1186-1188.
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