Distinct disease mechanisms may underlie cognitive decline related to hearing loss in different age groups

J.J. Van 't Hooft*, W. Pelkmans, J. Tomassen, C. Smits, N. Legdeur, A. Den Braber, F. Barkhof, B. Van Berckel, M. Yaqub, P. Scheltens, Y.A. Pijnenburg, P.J. Visser, B.M. Tijms

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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BackgroundHearing loss in older adults is associated with increased dementia risk. Underlying mechanisms that connect hearing loss with dementia remain largely unclear. MethodsWe studied the association of hearing loss and biomarkers for dementia risk in two age groups with normal cognition: 65 participants from the European Medical Information Framework (EMIF)-Alzheimer's disease (AD) 90+ study (oldest-old; mean age 92.7 years, 56.9% female) and 60 participants from the EMIF-AD PreclinAD study (younger-old; mean age 74.4, 43.3% female). Hearing function was tested by the 'digits-in-noise test' and cognition by repeated neuropsychological evaluation. Regressions and generalised estimating equations were used to test the association of hearing function and PET-derived amyloid burden, and linear mixed models were used to test the association of hearing function and cognitive decline. In the oldest-old group, mediation analyses were performed to study whether cognitive decline is mediated through regional brain atrophy. ResultsIn oldest-old individuals, hearing function was not associated with amyloid pathology (p=0.7), whereas in the younger-old individuals hearing loss was associated with higher amyloid burden (p=0.0034). In oldest-old individuals, poorer hearing was associated with a steeper decline in memory, global cognition and language, and in the younger-old with steeper decline in language only. The hippocampus and nucleus accumbens mediated the effects of hearing loss on memory and global cognition in the oldest-old individuals. ConclusionsHearing loss was associated with amyloid binding in younger-old individuals only, and with cognitive decline in both age groups. These results suggest that mechanisms linking hearing loss with risk for dementia depends on age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-320
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry
Issue number4
Early online date1 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023



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