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Original Investigation
April 23, 2020

Association Between Hearing Loss and Postural Instability in Older Korean Adults

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Otorhinolaryngology−Head and Neck Surgery, Korea University Guro Hospital, Korea University Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  • 2Department of Otorhinolaryngology−Head and Neck Surgery, Korea University Ansan Hospital, Korea University Medicine, Ansan, Korea
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2020;146(6):530-534. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2020.0293
Key Points

Question  Is degree of hearing loss associated with postural instability in older adults?

Findings  In this cross-sectional study of 3864 participants 40 years and older, an association was found between hearing loss and postural instability. The presence of moderate or worse hearing loss was associated with increased odds of postural instability compared with participants with normal hearing.

Meaning  Results of this study suggest that the odds of postural instability are increased in older adults with moderate or worse hearing loss, even when hearing loss is present on only 1 side.

Abstract

Importance  Hearing loss is one of the most frequently occurring sensory disabilities worldwide. The association between hearing loss and postural instability in an older population remains to be studied.

Objective  To determine whether the odds of postural instability increase with the degree of hearing loss and to suggest criteria for hearing rehabilitation for postural instability.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This cross-sectional population-based study of 3864 participants 40 years and older with hearing loss used data from 2010 through 2012 in the fifth edition of the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a nationwide survey of South Korea. Pure tone audiometry was performed on both the left and right sides and each hearing grade of each side was classified into 1 of 3 subcategories: normal hearing, mild hearing loss, or moderate hearing loss (moderate hearing loss or worse). Postural instability was defined as the failure to remain standing on a foam pad surface with feet 10 cm apart with arms folded and hands cupping the elbows and eyes closed. A binomial logistic regression model was used to assess the association between hearing loss and postural instability. Data were analyzed from August 18, 2019, to September 2, 2019.

Exposures  Age-related hearing loss defined as a threshold of 26 dB or more.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The degree of hearing loss and postural instability.

Results  Of the 3864 participants included in the study, the mean (SD) age was 57.8 (11.3) years and 2135 (55.2%) were women. Female sex was associated with higher odds of postural instability compared with male sex (odds ratio [OR], 1.65; 95% CI, 1.12-2.42, adjusted for age and hearing status), and the odds of postural instability increased with every 1 year increase in age (OR, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.10-1.16, adjusted for sex and hearing status). Unilateral or bilateral mild hearing loss was not associated with an increase in the odds of postural instability, but moderate hearing loss present on at least 1 side was associated with an increase in the odds of postural instability: unilateral moderate hearing loss group (OR, 2.71; 95% CI, 1.12-6.10, adjusted for age and sex), one mild and the other moderate hearing loss group (OR, 2.18; 95% CI, 1.16-4.09, adjusted for age and sex), and bilateral moderate hearing loss group (OR, 2.34; 95% CI, 1.27-4.33, adjusted for age and sex).

Conclusions and Relevance  Aging, female sex, and having hearing loss were associated with postural instability in this analysis. Moderate or worse hearing loss present on at least 1 side was associated with increased odds of postural instability. Future research in this area is warranted to identify more precise interrelationships and preventive measures.

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