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Invited Commentary
February 2018

Sensory Changes and the Hearing Loss–Cognition Link: The Cognitive Ear

Author Affiliations
  • 1Neurodegenerative Disease Unit, Department of Basic Medicine, Neuroscience, and Sense Organs, University of Bari “Aldo Moro,” Bari, Italy
  • 2Department of Clinical Research in Neurology, University of Bari “Aldo Moro,” “Pia Fondazione Cardinale G. Panico,” Tricase, Lecce, Italy
  • 3Geriatric Unit & Laboratory of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Department of Medical Sciences, IRCCS “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza,” San Giovanni Rotondo, Foggia, Italy
  • 4Otolaryngology Unit, University of Bari “Aldo Moro,” Bari, Italy
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018;144(2):127-128. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2017.2514

The UK National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) identified peripheral age-related hearing loss (ARHL) and social isolation as potentially modifiable dementia risk factors.1 A growing body of evidence suggested that ARHL and cognition in older age are interrelated and that midlife ARHL may be a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer disease (AD) and dementia in older adults.1,2 In a recent meta-analysis of only 3 selected studies with follow-up periods of 9 to 17 years, Livingstone and colleagues1 found that peripheral ARHL was a significant risk factor for incident dementia, calculating a pooled risk ratio of 1.94. At early stage of ARHL, part of the hearing problems are not related to the peripheral deficit of the auditory system but also to the central auditory processing (CAP) dysfunction, with considerable difficulty in understanding speech in presence of a background noise.2 Both peripheral and central auditory dysfunctions are therefore relevant to assess a possible influence of ARHL on late-life cognitive disorders.2

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