Clinically Measuring Orofacial Somatosensation in a Cohort of Healthy Aging Adults

Nicole M. Etter, Nicole Schmauk, Kristina A. Neely

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Humans experience the world through sensations of touch, taste, smell, vision, and audition. Alterations in sensory acuity occur across the adult life span in all types of sensation. The purpose of this study was to describe possible differences in lip and tongue somatosensation (sense of pressure) for healthy older adults using clinically available measurement tools as compared with previously published data using the same protocol. Method: A total of 33 healthy adults (ages 60–93 years; M= 70.5 years; 19 women) completed bilateral assessment of lip and tongue pressure detection and discrimination using two-point discrimination discs and Von Frey hair monofilaments. Participants reported basic health information and completed a pure-tone hearing threshold assessment within the same session. Results: Descriptive results are presented for individual data points from healthy aging adults. Group data are compared with previously published data from a cohort of healthy young participants. Although there were no statistically significant differences between the two healthy groups, variations in standard deviations in older adults were observed. Conclusions: Two-point discrimination and tactile detection and discrimination using Von Frey hair monofilaments can be used to assess labial and lingual pressure detection and discrimination in healthy aging adults. While not reach-ing statistical significance, on average, older adults demonstrated increased threshold estimates compared with younger adults with increases in standard deviations up to 11.5 times larger than the younger cohort. Subtle differences in somatosensation across the ages may be important for future comparisons with clinical populations across the life span. These assessment techniques can be used with an aging population to complete objective orofacial somatosensory testing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)306-315
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican journal of speech-language pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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