Recent work suggests that age-related hearing loss (HL) is a possible risk factor for cognitive decline in older adults. Resulting poor speech recognition negatively impacts cognitive, social and emotional functioning and may relate to dementia. However, little is known about the consequences of hearing loss on other non-linguistic domains of cognition. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of HL on covert orienting of attention, selective attention and executive control. We compared older adults with and without mild to moderate hearing loss (26–60 dB) performing (1) a spatial cueing task with uninformative central cues (social vs. nonsocial cues), (2) a flanker task and (3) a neuropsychological assessment of attention. The results showed that overall response times and flanker interference effects were comparable across groups. However, in spatial cueing of attention using social and nonsocial cues, hearing impaired individuals were characterized by reduced validity effects, though no additional group differences were found between social and nonsocial cues. Hearing impaired individuals also demonstrated diminished performance on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) and on tasks requiring divided attention and flexibility. This work indicates that while response speed and response inhibition appear to be preserved following mild-to-moderate acquired hearing loss, orienting of attention, divided attention and the ability to flexibly allocate attentional resources are more deteriorated in older adults with HL. This work suggests that hearing loss might exacerbate the detrimental influences of aging on visual attention.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We are grateful to all participants that volunteered for the study and dedicated a bit of their time to research. We also thank the Hospital of Rovereto for the support and collaboration in the research project. This work was supported by the University of Trento (Italy). F.P. was supported by the Medisite Foundation and Neurodis Foundation, by a grant from the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-16-CE17-0016) and the Italian Ministry for Research and University (PRIN 20177894ZH).
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- Spatial attention
- cognitive decline
- executive functions
- hearing loss
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Geriatrics and Gerontology
- Psychiatry and Mental health