J M Ross, O J Will, Z McGann, and R. Balasubramaniam (2016)
Auditory white noise reduces age-related fluctuations in balance
Neuroscience Letters, 630:216-221.
Fall prevention technologies have the potential to improve the lives of older adults. Because of the multisensory nature of human balance control, sensory therapies, including some involving tactile and auditory noise, are being explored that might reduce increased balance variability due to typical age-related sensory declines. Auditory white noise has previously been shown to reduce postural sway variability in healthy young adults. In the present experiment, we examined this treatment in young adults and typically aging older adults. We measured postural sway of healthy young adults and adults over the age of 65 years during silence and auditory white noise, with and without vision. Our results show reduced postural sway variability in young and older adults with auditory noise, even in the absence of vision. We show that vision and noise can reduce sway variability for both feedback-based and exploratory balance processes. In addition, we show changes with auditory noise in nonlinear patterns of sway in older adults that reflect what is more typical of young adults, and these changes did not interfere with the typical random walk behavior of sway. Our results suggest that auditory noise might be valuable for therapeutic and rehabilitative purposes in older adults with typical age-related balance variability.