Date of Degree

6-2021

Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Au.D.

Program

Audiology

Advisor

Barbara Weinstein

Committee Members

Brett Martin

Subject Categories

Speech Pathology and Audiology

Keywords

hearing aids, balance, falls, hearing loss, older adults, vestibular loss, risk of falls, static balance, postural stability, adults

Abstract

Background: The population of individuals 65 years old is increasing and falls are one of the most prevalent causes of disabilities among this population. Recent studies have found association between neural hearing losses and increased risk of falls, suggesting that hearing is an important input that assist visual, proprioceptive and vestibular inputs in maintaining balance. Hearing aids are known to be beneficial to improve access to sound; however, it is very limited the research regarding the effects of amplification on balance and risk of falls.

Objectives: This systematic review intends to gather and analyze all the research available regarding the effect of using hearing aids on improving self-reported or tested balance outcomes as well as on decreasing self-reported or objectively measures of falls in adults with hearing loss.

Methods: EBSCOhost/Medline Complete, ProQuest, PubMEd, Cochrane Library, ScienceDirect, BioMed Central and Google Scholar, were searched for articles between 2012 to 2020 using specific key terms. Inclusion parameters were: 1) studies from 2012 to 2020, 2) peer-reviewed articles, 3) adults (> 18 years old), 4) articles in English or Spanish, 4) randomized controlled trials or retrospective studies that compared using hearing aids versus not using hearing aids and 5) studies that included vestibular pathologies. The following exclusion criteria was established: 1) studies with a pediatric population (< 18 years old), 2) studies with individuals who have had vestibular rehabilitation, 3) studies of participants with dual sensory impairment (vision and hearing loss) and 4) studies that included participants with acute medical conditions (e.g., strokes).

Results: A total of ten studies that analyzed the effect of hearing aids on balance outcomes and a total of four studies that analyzed the effect of hearing aid on falls outcomes measurements were included in this systematic review. For the first objective, six out of the ten studies suggest significant benefit of using hearing aids on balance outcomes. For the second objective, all four studies showed positive association of wearing hearing aids on fall related outcomes.

Conclusion: Finding in this systematic review suggest that there is a benefit of using hearing aids on both balance and fall related outcomes for older adults with hearing loss. Our analysis suggests that there is a possible improvement in balance and decrease in frequency of falls, particularly, for adults with hearing loss and concomitant vestibular loss. It seems that these individuals benefit more from auditory cues to maintain balance.

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