It is generally accepted that age-related changes occur in voluntary muscle. Studies of hand grip strength and aging demonstrate a decrease in strength with age; however, there are little data regarding tongue function. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship of increased age to tongue strength and endurance.
A pressure transducer, the Iowa Oral Performance Instrument, was used to measure maximal strength and endurance of both the hand and tongue. Ninety-nine healthy volunteers from the oral physiology component of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging were divided into four age groups, ranging from 21 to 96 years of age. A multivariate analysis of variance was used to determine differences in strength and endurance between age groups and genders. Regression analysis was done to determine the relationship of strength and endurance with age.
Gender analysis indicated that both tongue and hand strength were greater in males; however, tongue and hand endurance demonstrated no gender differences. The strength in both the tongue and hand decreased with age. Individuals over the age of 79 years showed statistically decreased tongue strength, and individuals over the age of 59 years showed statistically decreased hand strength. There was no significant change in the tongue and hand endurance with age.
The results of this study suggest that tongue function is gender- and age-dependent and follows the same trends as hand function. Tongue strength is decreased in older individuals and females, while tongue endurance is gender- and age-independent.