Skip to main content

The impact of cognitive-motor interference on balance and gait in hearing-impaired older adults: a systematic review



Hearing impairments are a rising burden in our aging society. Hearing loss is associated with reduced cognitive performance as well as decrements in balance and gait. Therefore, impaired hearing affects also dual tasking (DT). The aim of this review is to summarize the evidence for DT performance decrements of older adults with hearing impairments during maintaining balance or walking.


The systematic literature research according to PRISMA guidelines was conducted using MEDLINE, APA Psych-Info, and Web of Science. Inclusion criteria were: Independent living older people ≥ 60 years with hearing impairments, use of a DT paradigm to test hearing impaired older adults within a balance or walking condition.


N = 57 studies were found within the databases. Eight studies were included (N = 456 participants (58% women), including n = 200 older hearing-impaired persons with different levels of hearing loss). Most of the included studies oriented their inclusion criteria for hearing-impairments at thresholds for mild hearing loss with Pure Tone Average (0.5-4 kHz) ≥ 25 and < 40 dB. Three of the studies focused on DT balance performance and five used DT walking comparing participants with and without hearing loss. For DT balance and gait performance, higher decrements for the hearing-impaired group were observed compared to healthy older adults. Performance decrements were accompanied by reduced compensatory strategies in balance performance.


More pronounced decrements in DT performance were observed for participants with hearing impairments compared to those without. This implies that hearing-impaired older adults might need specific interventions to reduce the cognitive-motor interference (CMI) to maintain balance control or walking stability in daily situations that require managing of cognitive and motor tasks simultaneously. However, taking all results into account the underlying mechanisms of CMI for this target group needs to be further examined.

Trial registration

This review was registered at Prospero with the ID CRD42022340232.


Age-related hearing impairment is a prevalent condition affecting nearly every second person over the age of 65 years [1]. It represents a global health challenge, with about 5% of the world population affected, a number projected to rise to 8% by 2050 [2]. Hearing impairment can impact social and emotional well-being [3] and limit capacity for daily activities and physical functioning [4,5,6,7]. As the world’s population continues to age, hearing impairment should therefore be considered a worldwide public health burden.

Hearing impairment has been associated with poorer cognitive performance [8,9,10,11], which may be attributed to age-related neural degeneration, sensory deprivation and reduced cognitive reserve. This can result in hearing impaired adults requiring additional cognitive resources for auditory processing, leaving fewer resources available for other cognitive processes [10]. Moreover, age-related changes in the auditory system lead to higher pure-tone detection thresholds and supra-threshold auditory difficulties [12] can make auditory processing more cognitively demanding [13]. Hearing loss and auditory dysfunction have also been associated with an increased risk of dementia [11, 14].

Previous research has linked hearing loss with balance impairments [15, 16], subjective walking limitations [17], reduced physical fitness [5], and increased frailty [18]. The severity of the hearing impairment has been connected to decrements in spatio-temporal gait parameters and falls [19]. Age-related changes in the vestibular system and proprioceptive functions further contribute to balance problems in hearing-impaired older adults [20], due to reduced sensitivity and integration of sensory information. These changes result in less efficient compensatory movements, affecting balance control during upright walking. Central problems in vestibular perception concern the vestibulo-ocular reflex and the vestibulo-spinal reflex, both of which are responsible for head position and eye movement control during upright walking [21]. The reason for this is attributed to changes in the hair and nerve cells in the vestibular apparatus, which subsequently react less sensitively to information, absorbing and transmitting it to a limited extent [21]. Similar losses are also assumed for proprioception. Balance problems can therefore be attributed primarily to the lack of optimal integration between the visual, auditory, vestibular and proprioceptive sensory information [22]. Accordingly, various aspects of the aging process result in less reliable sensory information and less accurate integration of information. According to Lindenberger [22], this leads to less efficient compensatory movements that serve to maintain balance. As a result, e.g., the postural sway or sway velocity is increased and reduces the margins of stability [23].

Additionally, walking in daily life often involves multitasking, such as crossing the street while reading signs and/or monitoring traffic [24]. This means that in everyday life, balancing or walking can be described as a dual-task (DT) activity [24], which is associated with decreased walking and balance performance, potentially increasing the risk of falling. Reduced walking performance is characterized by increased variability in foot placement, increased double support time, as well as reduced step length and velocity [25,26,27,28]. Hearing impairment further affects gait parameters (speed, phase and rhythm) under dual-task conditions, independent of age and comorbidities [29]. The association of hearing impairment and mobility decline can be attributed to competition for limited cognitive resources [30]. Finally, research indicates that changes of the sensory information results in greater declines in postural control for older adults compared to younger adults [31, 32]. When auditory challenges are introduced during balancing or walking tasks, there is an increased competition for cognitive capacity [33].

Despite these associations, the interaction between age-related hearing impairment and cognitive-motor interference on balance and walking performance is poorly understood. However, detecting these aspects is highly relevant to conduct tailored training interventions for this target group.

Therefore, the specific research question of this literature review was to understand how dual-task performance affects gait or balance parameters in older adults with hearing impairments. Additionally, the review will describe how hearing loss has been defined across studies, the types of DT combinations used in measurements (e.g. task complexity, stimulus–response condition), and the identified interaction between the severity of hearing loss and complexity of the balance and walking tasks.

We are aware that the methodological differences between studies make it difficult to answer the research question conclusively. However, we expect that older adults with hearing loss consistently show decreased dual-task performance compared to healthy controls.

The overall goal is to derive best practice recommendations for future cognitive-motor DT studies for this target group.


Search strategy and selection criteria

Three databases were systematically searched by using OvidSP to search in Medline (1946 to 2022, Week 30, APA PsycINFO (1806 to 2022, Week 30) as well as Web of Science (25.07.2022). The search strategy was to use combinations of the following key terms (Table 1).

Table 1 Search overview

Two reviewers independently searched within titles and abstracts to identify all potentially eligible studies meeting the inclusion criteria. In addition, the reference lists of the retrieved articles that fulfilled the inclusion criteria were searched manually.

Eligibility criteria

This review focused on older adults with hearing-impairment (Pure Tone Average (PTA) 2–4 kHz > 19.5 dB) and its association with cognitive-motor interference, balance and gait performance. With regards to the classification of participants according to their hearing ability, we chose the World Health Organization (WHO; [34]) definition as our main reference. The WHO proposes in the report different grades of hearing loss by using certain thresholds of the minimum sound intensity that an ear can detect as an average of values at 500, 1000, 2000, 4000 Hz in the better hearing ear. The specified thresholds are: Mild hearing impairment (20–34 dB), moderate (34–49 dB), moderate severe (50–64 dB), severe (65–79 dB), profound (80–94 dB), and complete hearing loss (> 95 dB) [34]. However, we allow for different approaches to classify participants with respect to their hearing ability and report this classification as the first outcome.

Therefore, the inclusion criteria comprised the following aspects:

  1. (1)

    Hearing-impaired older adults with a minimum age of 50 years or a reported mean age of 60 or older, living independently in the community.

Requirements for the study design: Investigation of healthy and/or hearing-impaired older adults in either a randomized control trial (RCT), an experimental–control group design or an old–young comparison with a distinction between older hearing-impaired and non-impaired older adults.

  1. (2)

    Integration of a dual-task or multitasking.

In this review cognitive-motor Interference (CMI) will be defined as a measure of dual task (DT) performance in comparison to a baseline single task (ST) measurement

Assessment criteria:

  1. (1)

    Investigation of at least one walking or balance task in a DT setting.

  2. (2)

    Assessment of DT performance (ST vs. DT) and/or the dual-task costs.

In order to categorize results across studies so that they were comparable, cognitive tasks were classified according to their modality (e.g., visual, or auditory) and task setting (e.g., stimulus detection vs. stimulus discrimination tasks).

  1. (3)

    Report of at least one of the main motor outcomes (balance and/or gait) and/or the dual-task costs.

Balance parameters:

  • Postural sway (e.g., root mean square of medial–lateral and anterior–posterior amplitude)

  • Electromyography (EMG) activity (e.g., peak amplitudes)

  • Center of pressure (COP) or Center of Gravity (COG) displacement variables (e.g., total path length, sway velocity, area of ellipse in anterior–posterior or medial–lateral direction)

  • Kinematics (e.g., angular velocities of the hip or knee)

Gait parameters (if possible corrected for body height; (cf. Table 2):

Table 2 Spatiotemporal gait parameters
  1. (4)

    Dual-task costs for all mentioned parameters (e.g., ST-DT/ST*100) and/or the cognitive task performance when single or dual tasking.

  2. (5)

    Included studies: randomized controlled trials, quasi-randomized controlled trials, cluster-randomized controlled trials, randomized crossover trials, pre- and post-studies, case control studies, cohort studies and cross-sectional studies.

Articles were excluded when:

  1. (1)

    Sample did not match the age requirement and/or contained no hearing-impaired participants.

  2. (2)

    Study design did not include any motor task or dual task.

  3. (3)

    Populations were selected based on a medical condition (e.g., brain injuries, mild cognitive impairment, dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease) or if the study took place in a care setting.

  4. (4)

    Studies with a secondary analysis of previous reported results in other included studies.

  5. (5)

    Case studies, conference abstracts and qualitative studies.

Two reviewers (BW and AW) searched titles and abstracts to identify all potentially eligible studies meeting the inclusion criteria. Afterwards the two reviewers independently assessed full paper copies of all of the identified potentially eligible studies to determine which of the studies would be included. Any disagreement on inclusion was resolved by discussion and through arbitration by a third reviewer (KL).

Data extraction and risk of bias

Two reviewers imported references to a table to extract and collate information in three steps:

  1. (1)

    Overview of all includes studies concerning the author, year of release, study design and aims, dual-task type, population with discrimination of hearing impairments/ no hearing impairments and the respective age, the used definition of hearing-impairment, a list of all observed balance or walking parameters, and the results for the relevant comparisons (cf. Table 4)

  2. (2)

    Quality assessment of the included articles based on a customized checklist. This was done with a modified Downs and Black [36] questionnaire by both first authors independently. As the review did not focus exclusively on intervention studies, all quality criteria with respect to randomized controlled trials (e.g., randomization, follow-up periods etc.) were not assessed. Table 3 therefore includes the report of the quality criteria including the following 16 aspects of the Black and Downs scale ( [36]; cf. Table 3). If a quality criterion was described sufficiently, it was rated with a point. Consequently, the maximum quality score is 16 points.

  3. (3)

    For all included studies, the main results were summarized in Table 4. This includes task order, outcome measures used to assess and report the performance of either of the concurrent tasks, and study results.

Data items

The data items included the used classification of participants with respect to hearing impairment, walking and balance parameters in single and dual-task conditions. For the walking performance, there is already an agreement as to which outcomes should be measured and reported [e.g., [35, 37]. Therefore, the reported data of walking speed (gait velocity) as well as step length and others like step width are commonly comparable.

In case it was required, the corresponding authors of the included studies were asked to provide additional data to the reported data of the published manuscript. Moreover, the corresponding authors were asked to provide missing data of interest (e.g., if ST vs. DT for baseline conditions were not reported).

Data synthesis

We first reported the chosen definition for mild and/or severe hearing impairment. Then, we extracted available data of the comparison of ST and DT or dual-task costs for the hearing-impaired and non-hearing-impaired older adults for each of the outcome variables of interest as a verbal description into Table 4. Available differences between hearing-impaired and non-hearing-impaired older adults were provided.


The initial search generated 57 articles including 16 duplicates (Fig. 1) from which a total number of eight studies were integrated into further analysis (cf. Table 4).

Fig. 1
figure 1

Flow chart of screening stages after initial search

Overall, the studies tested N = 456 participants (58% women), including 174 healthy older adults and 200 older hearing-impaired persons with different levels of hearing loss. The other 82 participants were young and healthy adults or from other clinical populations. The quality assessment (see Table 3) showed that all eight studies included in this review reached at least nine points and are of high quality.

Table 3 Quality assessment

Most of the included studies oriented their inclusion criteria for the hearing-impaired group based on the previously published thresholds of the WHO regards mild hearing loss with PTA (0.5-4 kHz) ≥ 25 and < 40 dB. The two Wollesen et al. studies considered instead [43] or in addition [29] moderate hearing loss with PTA (0.5-4 kHz) ≥ 40 dB and < 60 dB and severe hearing loss with PTA (0.5-4 kHz) ≥ 60 dB. Lau et al. [42] included only participants with a threshold PTA (0.5,1,2,3 kHz of both ears) > 25 dB HL and who were experienced hearing aid users. The authors of Kowalewski et al. [41] do not report any PTA threshold but all participants in the hearing loss group had been diagnosed with hearing loss. There were some minor differences in which frequencies were averaged and whether the value for the better, worse or both ears was used for the grouping criteria.

Table 4 presents the main results of all included studies sorted by motor task.

Table 4 Included studies sorted by movement task

Three of the walking studies report reduced gait speed and step length during dual-task compared to single task walking. While in Gorecka et al. [39] hearing loss moderated most of the differences in motor task performance when comparing a younger and an older group of older participants, Gorecka et al. [40] were able to show that most of the walking parameters (except for step width) decreased in performance between ST and DT, however, differences in direction between young and old, as well as for participants with hearing-impairment were not identified or reported in the original paper. On request, the authors contrasted hearing ability and their data showed increased step width and step length variability for participants with mild hearing loss. Wollesen et al. [29] revealed that increased hearing impairment comes along with a decrease in walking speed and cadence. In the treadmill study of Lau et al. [42], significant dual-task costs were found for hearing-impaired participants when investigating the mean trunk pitch.

The three studies investigating cognitive-motor interference with regards to maintaining balance utilized different balance tasks. Bruce et al. [30] applied the computerized dynamic posturography test, Bruce et al. [38] used a perturbation platform and Kowalewski et al. [41] a dual-belt treadmill system, and thus reported a broader range of motor performance measures. Both Bruce et al. studies [30, 38] did not reveal an additional impact of hearing impairment on the balance parameters. In contrast, Kowalewski et al. [41] were able to show that older adults with hearing loss needed more steps to regain their balance after perturbation compared to age-matched and younger controls.


This systematic review aimed to investigate the impact of dual-task performance on gait or balance parameters in older adults with hearing impairments. To answer these questions, we analyzed the definitions of hearing loss, integrated task combinations, and the interaction between hearing loss severity and the cognitive-motor performance in DT task settings for balance and walking tasks. We hypothesized that participants with hearing impairments would show higher decrements in DT performance compared to older adults without hearing impairments. The review identified eight studies that examined DT balance and walking performance in older adults with hearing impairments. These studies differed in their objectives, dual-task setups, and study designs.

Definitions of hearing loss

Most studies followed the WHO’s previous recommendation for categorizing hearing impairment severity. The downward adjustment of the thresholds by the WHO highlighted that the effects of hearing-impairment manifest already at an earlier stage than previously assumed, underscoring the importance of interventions to address issues starting with mild hearing impairment. Only, Gorecka et al. [40] used on our request the new threshold for mild hearing impairment (PTA (0.5-4kHz) ≥ 20 dB) for the additional analyses provided for this systematic review. One study classified their older participants based on an existing diagnosis of hearing-impairment [41]. Overall in the reported studies, it seemed more like that increasing severity of hearing impairment and a larger sample enabled to reveal the decrements reflected in the motor performance than the chosen classification approach.

Integrated task combinations of the DT measurements for balance and walking

The studies used different DT settings to examine the performance levels of older adults with hearing impairments. Balance studies integrated working memory tasks (n-back or Bamford-Kowal-Bench Speech-In-Noise test; cf. Table 4) targeting different cognitive processes during motor control. The working memory tasks address a divided attention paradigm focusing on resource allocation (cf. limited resource hypothesis which claims that there is a shared pool of limited resources for both, the cognitive and the motor task [44]. Similarly, walking studies integrated audio-spatial stimulus detection tasks and visual-verbal inhibition tasks (e.g. Stroop), to examine different aspects of cognitive processing during motor control. The audio-spatial stimulus detection tasks refer directly to the potential problem of sensory integration of the hearing information by hearing-impaired older adults, while the visual component of the Stroop tasks is more related to resources needed for gait stability [45]. As a result, the interpretation of DT performance decrements needs to consider the specific task set-ups.

DT results balance

The DT balance performance showed greater performance decrements in participants with hearing impairments, characterized by a higher number of steps taken to stabilize balance ( [41]; cf. Table 4). These findings suggest that older adults with hearing impairments allocate more effort to motor control processes during DT situations. However, given the limited number of studies and different cognitive and motor task conditions, general conclusions regarding the DT balance abilities in other DT settings of older adults with hearing impairments cannot be drawn from the reported results.

One study compared hearing-impaired older adults with non-hearing-impaired older adults in DT or balance training interventions [30]. Hearing-impaired participants did not show more baseline decrements in their cognitive and balance abilities compared to healthy older adults. Still, they showed training benefits independent of the training regime while the healthy controls benefited more from successive cognitive and motor training. This suggests that the training benefits differ related to hearing performance. Groups with worse hearing might have faced challenges adapting to the different sensory conditions due to the importance of both vision and hearing in balance control [46]. Tailoring the training to individual hearing and motor abilities could enhance its effectiveness for older adults with hearing impairments [cf. [47, 48]. The simultaneous integration of cognitive and motor processes during training may help compensate for performance decrements related to hearing loss, but this concept requires further investigation.

DT results walking

The DT walking performance of gait parameters addressing mainly pace and variability results (cf. Table 4) suggest a destabilization of gait in participants with hearing impairment, evidenced by decreased gait speed, step length and increased gait variability within the studies. Moreover, these observations were consistent across different secondary tasks or the task settings (e.g., auditory-verbal working memory or visual-verbal inhibition tasks). However, these tasks could also be referred to as executive function tasks (cf. Diamond [49]) which are highly related to activities of daily life [50]. Specifically, participants with hearing impairments had worse baseline walking conditions and higher DT costs (cf. Wollesen et al. [43] compared to Wollesen et al. [29]), making their gait stability comparable to that of fallers and older adults aged 75 and older (cf. Hollmann [35]). This suggests that sensory loss and decreased mobility in this population might lead to gait instability, resembling the gait patterns of much older individuals. These aspects of decreased gait stability were also expressed by the increased gait variability reported by the studies of Gorecka et al. [39, 40] and Lau et al [42]. The overall observed gait destabilization in hearing-impaired individuals may be attributed to the disruption of the auditory feedback mechanisms and changes in the vestibular system, leading to difficulties to locate the head position during the movement. Moreover, the auditory cues from footsteps are relevant in adjusting gait patterns in the environment [13, 51].

Notably, most studies focused on pace-related parameters to describe walking performance. Future research could explore rhythm, phase and base of support parameters to gain a deeper understanding of gait quality within this population. These additional insights, combined with balance performance data might reveal relevant elements for gait and postural stability training. Nevertheless, the study by Wollesen et al. [43] suggested that DT gait performance can benefit from specific training interventions as reported for the balance data. However, the transfer of these benefits to more complex situations (e.g., triple tasks) was not sustained, suggesting the need for longer training periods and individualization of the interventions to improve DT static and dynamic balance performance.


In summary, this review provided some insights with respect to cognitive-motor interference of older adults with hearing impairments which can be transferred into future DT studies. Firstly, older adults with hearing impairments showed DT decrements within balance and walking tasks. However, according to the mixture of the different task settings, there should be more comprehensive research combining different task complexities and stimulus input conditions for the cognitive as well as the motor task condition. Studies might compare sitting, standing and walking with different forms of cognitive complexities that are relevant for daily activities and related to the reduced ability of sensory integration of this target group (e.g., detection of auditory and visual stimuli, auditory and visual discrimination tasks, tasks including spatial orientation; auditory tasks including background noise etc.).

With respect to conducting future training interventions, the combination of the addressed cognitive-motor-task combination should reflect the real-world conditions in more ecologically valid scenarios. Interventions should focus on simultaneous training tasks to overcome the analyzed destabilizing effects. The exercises should address the combination of vision and hearing related tasks including balance or walking with a specific focus on sensory integration. As previous studies showed, balance and walking should be considered separately with respect to potential DT decrements [52,53,54]. Therefore, training interventions should address tasks for balance and for walking performance.

Strengths and limitations

This review integrated high-quality studies published in the last eight years, underscoring the emerging interest in this research area. The main limitation of this review stems from the heterogeneity of secondary tasks and task settings (especially for studies including balance performance), limiting the comparability and generalizability of the results. Calculating DT costs could have solved this problem. However, due to the heterogeneity of reporting, these DT costs were not accessible.

There might also be differences between the processes of motor control if a secondary task involves vision or hearing. Furthermore, the lack of individualization of the secondary task according to the hearing abilities as, e.g., provided within the papers by Bruce et al. [43 and 30] was missing in the other study designs. Finally, the review acknowledged the potential bias arising from seven out of the eight included studies being provided by three research groups. Therefore, it is necessary to conduct additional studies within this area of research to strengthen the evidence base.


The included studies within this review demonstrated dual task decrements in balance and walking performance for older adults with hearing impairments. These decrements were consistent across DT settings and study designs, highlighting the need for specific interventions to reduce the cognitive-motor interference (CMI) and maintain balance control or walking stability in daily situations that require concurrent cognitive and motor tasks. However, understanding the underlying mechanisms of CMI in this population requires further investigation. Nevertheless, initial evidence suggests that identifying these mechanisms and designing tailored training interventions requires a certain adaptation according to individual hearing and motor abilities as well as to the requirements for activities of daily living.

Availability of data and materials

All papers included in the systematic review are published. The additional analysis by Claudia Rodríguez-Aranda on the data from Gorecka et al. can be requested from them.


  1. Goman AM, Lin FR. Prevalence of hearing loss by severity in the United States. Am J Public Health. 2016;106(10):1820–2.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  2. World Health Organization. Deafness and hearing loss: World Health Organization; 2020. Available from: URL: Cited 2023 Sep 1.

  3. Davis A, McMahon CM, Pichora-Fuller KM, Russ S, Lin F, Olusanya BO, et al. Aging and hearing health: the life-course approach. Gerontologist. 2016;56 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S256-67.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Chang HP, Ho CY, Chou P. The factors associated with a self-perceived hearing handicap in elderly people with hearing impairment—results from a community-based study. Ear Hear. 2009;30(5):576–83.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Gopinath B, McMahon CM, Burlutsky G, Mitchell P. Hearing and vision impairment and the 5-year incidence of falls in older adults. Age Ageing. 2016;45(3):409–14.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Gispen FE, Chen DS, Genther DJ, Lin FR. Association between hearing impairment and lower levels of physical activity in older adults. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014;62(8):1427–33.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  7. Mick P, Kawachi I, Lin FR. The association between hearing loss and social isolation in older adults. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014;150(3):378–84.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Valentijn SAM, van Boxtel MPJ, van Hooren SAH, Bosma H, Beckers HJM, Ponds RWHM, et al. Change in sensory functioning predicts change in cognitive functioning: results from a 6-year follow-up in the maastricht aging study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005;53(3):374–80.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. Lin FR. Hearing loss and cognition among older adults in the United States. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2011;66(10):1131–6.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Mudar RA, Husain FT. Neural alterations in acquired age-related hearing loss. Front Psychol. 2016;7:828.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  11. Albers MW, Gilmore GC, Kaye J, Murphy C, Wingfield A, Bennett DA, et al. At the interface of sensory and motor dysfunctions and Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Dement. 2015;11(1):70–98.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Schneider BA, Pichora-Fuller K, Daneman M. Effects of senescent changes in audition and cognition on spoken language comprehension. In: Gordon-Salant S, Frisina RD, Popper AN, Fay RR, editors. The aging auditory system. New York: Springer; 2010. p. 167–210 (Springer Handbook of Auditory Research).

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  13. Pichora-Fuller MK, Kramer SE, Eckert MA, Edwards B, Hornsby BWY, Humes LE, et al. Hearing impairment and cognitive energy: The framework for understanding effortful listening (FUEL). Ear Hear. 2016;37(Suppl 1):5S-27S.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Livingston G, Huntley J, Sommerlad A, Ames D, Ballard C, Banerjee S, et al. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. Lancet. 2020;396(10248):413–46.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  15. Viljanen A, Kaprio J, Pyykkö I, Sorri M, Koskenvuo M, Rantanen T. Hearing acuity as a predictor of walking difficulties in older women. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009;57(12):2282–6.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Viljanen A, Kaprio J, Pyykkö I, Sorri M, Pajala S, Kauppinen M, et al. Hearing as a predictor of falls and postural balance in older female twins. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2009;64(2):312–7.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. Chen DS, Genther DJ, Betz J, Lin FR. Association between hearing impairment and self-reported difficulty in physical functioning. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014;62(5):850–6.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  18. Kamil RJ, Li L, Lin FR. Association between hearing impairment and frailty in older adults. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014;62(6):1186–8.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  19. Agmon M, Lavie L, Doumas M. The association between hearing loss, postural control, and mobility in older adults: a systematic review. J Am Acad Audiol. 2017;28(6):575–88.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Horlings CGC, Küng UM, Honegger F, van Engelen BGM, van Alfen N, Bloem BR, et al. Vestibular and proprioceptive influences on trunk movements during quiet standing. Neuroscience. 2009;161(3):904–14.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Sturnieks DL, St George R, Lord SR. Balance disorders in the elderly. Neurophysiol Clin. 2008;38(6):467–78.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. Lindenberger U, Nagel IE, Chicherio C, Li S-C, Heekeren HR, Bäckman L. Age-related decline in brain resources modulates genetic effects on cognitive functioning. Front Neurosci. 2008;2(2):234–44.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  23. Johansson J, Jarocka E, Westling G, Nordström A, Nordström P. Predicting incident falls: relationship between postural sway and limits of stability in older adults. Hum Mov Sci. 2019;66:117–23.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Faulkner KA, Redfern MS, Cauley JA, Landsittel DP, Studenski SA, Rosano C, et al. Multitasking: association between poorer performance and a history of recurrent falls. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2007;55(4):570–6.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Al-Yahya E, Dawes H, Smith L, Dennis A, Howells K, Cockburn J. Cognitive motor interference while walking: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2011;35(3):715–28.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Springer S, Giladi N, Peretz C, Yogev G, Simon ES, Hausdorff JM. Dual-tasking effects on gait variability: the role of aging, falls, and executive function. Mov Disord. 2006;21(7):950–7.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Woollacott M, Shumway-Cook A. Attention and the control of posture and gait: a review of an emerging area of research. Gait Posture. 2002;16(1):1–14.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Hausdorff JM, Rios DA, Edelberg HK. Gait variability and fall risk in community-living older adults: a 1-year prospective study. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2001;82(8):1050–6.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Wollesen B, Scrivener K, Soles K, Billy Y, Leung A, Martin F, et al. Dual-task walking performance in older persons with hearing impairment: implications for interventions from a preliminary observational study. Ear Hear. 2018;39(2):337–43.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. Bruce H, Lai L, Bherer L, Lussier M, St-Onge N, Li KZH. The effect of simultaneously and sequentially delivered cognitive and aerobic training on mobility among older adults with hearing loss. Gait Posture. 2019;67:262–8.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Redfern MS, Jennings JR, Martin C, Furman JM. Attention influences sensory integration for postural control in older adults. Gait Posture. 2001;14(3):211–6.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Doumas M, Smolders C, Krampe RT. Task prioritization in aging: effects of sensory information on concurrent posture and memory performance. Exp Brain Res. 2008;187(2):275–81.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  33. Nieborowska V, Lau S-T, Campos J, Pichora-Fuller MK, Novak A, Li KZH. Effects of age on dual-task walking while listening. J Mot Behav. 2019;51(4):416–27.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. World Health Organization. World report on hearing. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2021.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Hollman JH, McDade EM, Petersen RC. Normative spatiotemporal gait parameters in older adults. Gait Posture. 2011;34(1):111–8.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  36. Downs SH, Black N. The feasibility of creating a checklist for the assessment of the methodological quality both of randomised and non-randomised studies of health care interventions. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1998;52(6):377–84.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  37. Beauchet O, Allali G, Sekhon H, Verghese J, Guilain S, Steinmetz J-P, et al. Guidelines for assessment of gait and reference values for spatiotemporal gait parameters in older adults: the biomathics and canadian gait consortiums initiative. Front Hum Neurosci. 2017;11:353.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  38. Bruce H, Aponte D, St-Onge N, Phillips N, Gagné J-P, Li KZH. The effects of age and hearing loss on dual-task balance and listening. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2017;74(2):275–83.

    Article  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  39. Gorecka MM, Vasylenko O, Espenes J, Waterloo K, Rodríguez-Aranda C. The impact of age-related hearing loss and lateralized auditory attention on spatiotemporal parameters of gait during dual-tasking among community dwelling older adults. Exp Gerontol. 2018;111:253–62.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. Gorecka MM, Vasylenko O, Waterloo K, Rodríguez-Aranda C. Assessing a sensory-motor-cognition triad in amnestic mild cognitive impairment with dichotic listening while walking: a dual-task paradigm. Front Aging Neurosci. 2021;13:718900.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  41. Kowalewski V, Patterson R, Hartos J, Bugnariu N. Hearing loss contributes to balance difficulties in both younger and older adults. J Prev Med (Wilmington). 2018;3(2):12.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Lau ST, Pichora-Fuller MK, Li KZH, Singh G, Campos JL. Effects of hearing loss on dual-task performance in an audiovisual virtual reality simulation of listening while walking. J Am Acad Audiol. 2016;27(7):567–87.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Wollesen B, Pocovi NC, Salvestro K, Hurley S, Seydell L, Scrivener K, et al. Multitask training to improve walking performance in older adults with hearing impairment: a feasibility study. Aging and Health Research. 2021;1(3):100028.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Wickens CD. The structure of attentional resources. In: Nickerson R, editor. Attention and performance VIII. Hillsdale: Erlbaum; 1980. p. 239–57.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Osoba MY, Rao AK, Agrawal SK, Lalwani AK. Balance and gait in the elderly: a contemporary review. Laryngoscope Investig Otolaryngol. 2019;4(1):143–53.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  46. Vitkovic J, Le C, Lee S-L, Clark RA. The Contribution of hearing and hearing loss to balance control. Audiol Neurootol. 2016;21(4):195–202.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  47. Herold F, Hamacher D, Schega L, Müller NG. Thinking while moving or moving while thinking - concepts of motor-cognitive training for cognitive performance enhancement. Front Aging Neurosci. 2018;10:228.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  48. Hecksteden A, Faude O, Meyer T, Donath L. How to construct, conduct and analyze an exercise training study? Front Physiol. 2018;9:1007.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  49. Diamond A. Executive functions. Annu Rev Psychol. 2013;64:135–68.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  50. Verreckt E, Grimm E, Agrigoroaei S, de Saint HM, Philippot P, Cremer G, Schoevaerdts D. Investigating the relationship between specific executive functions and functional decline among community-dwelling older adults: results from a prospective pilot study. BMC Geriatr. 2022;22(1):976.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  51. Santos TGT, Venosa AR, Sampaio ALL. Association between hearing loss and vestibular disorders: a review of the interference of hearing in the balance. IJOHNS. 2015;04(03):173–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Wollesen B, Voelcker-Rehage C, Regenbrecht T, Mattes K. Influence of a visual–verbal stroop test on standing and walking performance of older adults. Neuroscience. 2016;318:166–77.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  53. Granacher U, Bridenbaugh SA, Muehlbauer T, Wehrle A, Kressig RW. Age-related effects on postural control under multi-task conditions. Gerontology. 2011;57(3):247–55.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  54. Protzak J, Wiczorek R, Gramann K. Peripheral visual perception during natural overground dual-task walking in older and younger adults. Neurobiol Aging. 2021;98:146–59.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank Claudia Rodríguez-Aranda for running an additional analysis on their data and providing us with the results. Furthermore, we want to acknowledge Henrike Wieden, who contributed to a preliminary search for related research papers. We acknowledge support by the Open Access Publication Fund of TU Berlin.


Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. The systematic review is part of the GehHörBalance project at TU Berlin and funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (16KN084647).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



AW, BW, KL and KD conceived and designed this study and developed the search strategy. AW and BW conducted the search as well as the study selection and quality scoring individually according to the PRISMA statement, while KL rated the included studies by BW. JA created the results tables and the reference list and edited the manuscript. The final manuscript was drafted by BW and AW and was substantially revised by KL and KD. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Anna Wunderlich.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval and consent to participate

For this review was no additional ethics approval necessary.

Consent for publication

All authors consented the submission of this manuscript for publication.

Competing interests

No issues regarding the journal policies.

All authors declare no competing interests.

All authors approved the manuscript for submission.

The content of the systematic review has not been published, or submitted for publication elsewhere.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary Information

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wunderlich, A., Wollesen, B., Asamoah, J. et al. The impact of cognitive-motor interference on balance and gait in hearing-impaired older adults: a systematic review. Eur Rev Aging Phys Act 21, 17 (2024).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: