A static sound source can improve postural stability during walking

J Vestib Res. 2021;31(3):143-149. doi: 10.3233/VES-200015.


Background: During walking, postural stability is controlled by visual, vestibular and proprioceptive input. The auditory system uses acoustic input to localize sound sources. For some static balance conditions, the auditory influence on posture was already proven. Little is known about the impact of auditory inputs on balance in dynamic conditions.

Objective: This study is aimed at investigating postural stability of walking tasks in silence and sound on condition to better understand the impact of auditory input on balance in movement.

Methods: Thirty participants performed: walking (eyes open), tandem steps, walking with turning head and walking over barriers. During each task, acoustic condition changed between silence and presented noise through an earth-fixed loudspeaker located at the end of the walking distance. Body sway velocity was recorded close to the body's center of gravity.

Results: A decreased body sway velocity was significant for walking (eyes open), tandem steps and walking over barriers when noise was presented. Those auditory stimuli did not affect sway velocity while walking with turning head. The posture has probably improved due to the localization ability when walking with the head facing forward, while the localization ability was impaired when turning the head.

Conclusions: The localization ability of a fixed sound source through the auditory system has a significant but limited impact on posture while walking.

Keywords: Auditory influence; body sway; mobile posturography; sound localization; walking conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Postural Balance
  • Posture
  • Proprioception
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth*
  • Walking*