Brain changes associated with age-related hearing loss

Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery
Justin S Golub


To discuss brain changes associated with age-related hearing loss (ARHL), including cognitive abilities and neuroimaging findings. This information will be helpful to hypothesize and ultimately understand how ARHL may be mechanistically related to changes in brain structure and function. It will also be helpful to guide the strength of treatment recommendations. ARHL has recently been associated with cognitive impairment and dementia. This observation is present in both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses, in diverse patient populations, and after controlling for a variety of potential confounders. Preliminary brain imaging studies show smaller brain volumes as well as white matter tract dysfunction in adults with hearing loss. ARHL is related to cognitive impairment and dementia. More study is needed to determine if the association is causal, and if treatment efforts could reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. Given the low risk of treating ARHL and the potential health benefit for the aging brain, it is recommended to proactively discuss ARHL and treatment with patients.


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