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Differences in Tongue Strength Across Age and Gender: Is There a Diminished Strength Reserve?


Maximum tongue strength was investigated and compared to mean swallowing pressure elicited by the anterior tongue to calculate the percentage of maximum tongue strength used during swallowing in 96 participants with normal swallowing, divided into three 20-year age groups. The purposes of this investigation were to investigate normal swallowing physiology and to determine whether tongue strength reserves diminished according to age or gender. The results of the study yielded significant maximum tongue strength differences between the youngest and oldest and middle and oldest age groups; the oldest group had the weakest tongues. Mean swallowing pressure did not differ based on age, but women were found to have significantly higher pressures than men. The percentage of maximum tongue strength used during swallowing did not vary as a function of age, but women used a significantly higher percentage of tongue strength to swallow than men. Based on the results, it appears that a diminishing strength reserve does not exist based on age, but it does exist based on gender. Specifically, it appears that women have a reduced tongue strength reserve compared to men. Clinical implications are discussed.

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The authors thank Patricia Youmans and Lisa Nieves as well as the entire Long Island University community for their help in recruitment and support of this endeavor.

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Correspondence to Scott R. Youmans.

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All work was completed at Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus.

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Youmans, S.R., Youmans, G.L. & Stierwalt, J.A.G. Differences in Tongue Strength Across Age and Gender: Is There a Diminished Strength Reserve?. Dysphagia 24, 57–65 (2009).

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  • Deglutition
  • Deglutition disorders
  • Swallowing
  • Dysphagia
  • Tongue
  • Strength
  • Physiology