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The impact of hearing loss on language performance in older adults with different stages of cognitive function

Authors Lodeiro-Fernández L, Lorenzo-López L, Maseda A, Núñez-Naveira L, Rodríguez-Villamil JL, Millan-Calenti JC

Received 20 January 2015

Accepted for publication 13 February 2015

Published 9 April 2015 Volume 2015:10 Pages 695—702


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker

Leire Lodeiro-Fernández, Laura Lorenzo-López, Ana Maseda, Laura Núñez-Naveira, José Luis Rodríguez-Villamil, José Carlos Millán-Calenti

Gerontology Research Group, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of A Coruña, Campus of A Coruña, A Coruña, Spain

The possible relationship between audiometric hearing thresholds and cognitive performance on language tests was analyzed in a cross-sectional cohort of older adults aged ≥65 years (N=98) with different degrees of cognitive impairment.
Materials and methods: Participants were distributed into two groups according to Reisberg’s Global Deterioration Scale (GDS): a normal/predementia group (GDS scores 1–3) and a moderate/moderately severe dementia group (GDS scores 4 and 5). Hearing loss (pure-tone audiometry) and receptive and production-based language function (Verbal Fluency Test, Boston Naming Test, and Token Test) were assessed.
Results: Results showed that the dementia group achieved significantly lower scores than the predementia group in all language tests. A moderate negative correlation between hearing loss and verbal comprehension (r=-0.298; P<0.003) was observed in the predementia group (r=-0.363; P<0.007). However, no significant relationship between hearing loss and verbal fluency and naming scores was observed, regardless of cognitive impairment.
Conclusion: In the predementia group, reduced hearing level partially explains comprehension performance but not language production. In the dementia group, hearing loss cannot be considered as an explanatory factor of poor receptive and production-based language performance. These results are suggestive of cognitive rather than simply auditory problems to explain the language impairment in the elderly.

Keywords: auditory impairment, verbal function, aging, cognition

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