Sound and Balance

Sound and Balance Control. Multisensory perception dynamically and continuously influences human standing balance control behavior, but little is known about how sounds impact balance stability directly. My work shows that sound is incorporated into balance control mechanisms and that exposure to some types of sounds can improve stability in standing balance in healthy young adults and in aging adults with typical age-related balance instability. I show that music that is rhythmically predictable can entrain balance mechanisms, resulting in reductions in body sway variability related to standing stability. I also show that white noise, such as that which is currently being used in some types of hearing aids for improving speech signal clarity, can reduce body sway variability in young and aging adults, leading to less variability in standing stability. This work also contributes to understanding predictive and reactive balance movement control, and similar networks have been proposed for predictive balance control and musical rhythm perception.

  1. Ross, J.M., Will, O.J., McGann, Z., & Balasubramaniam, R. (2016). Auditory white noise reduces age-related fluctuations in balance. Neurosci. Lett. 630, 216-221.
  2. Ross, J.M., Warlaumont, A.S., Abney, D.H., Rigoli, L.M., & Balasubramaniam, R. (2015). Influence of musical groove on postural sway. J. Exp. Psychol.- Hum. Percept. Perform. 42(3), 308-19.
  3. Ross, J.M., & Balasubramaniam, R. (2015). Auditory white noise reduces postural fluctuations even in the absence of vision. Exp. Brain Res. 233(8), 2357-63.


Figure 1. Multisensory perception dynamically and continuously influences human standing balance control behavior, but little is known about how sounds impact balance stability directly. My work shows that sound is incorporated into balance control mechanisms and that exposure to some types of sounds can improve stability in standing balance in healthy young adults and in aging adults with typical age-related balance instability. I show that music that is rhythmically predictable can entrain balance mechanisms, resulting in reductions in body sway variability related to standing stability. I also show that white noise, such as that which is currently being used in some types of hearing aids for improving speech signal clarity, can reduce body sway variability in young and aging adults, leading to less variability in standing stability. This work also contributes to understanding predictive and reactive balance movement control, and similar networks have been proposed for predictive balance control and musical rhythm perception. Ross & Balasubramaniam, 2015, Exp. Brain Res.; Ross et al., 2016, J. Exp. Psychol.- Hum. Percept. Perform.; Ross et al., 2016, Neurosci. Lett.