Association of Hearing Loss With Neuropsychiatric Symptoms in Older Adults With Cognitive Impairment

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2 Scopus citations


Neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) in persons with dementia (PWD) are common and can lead to poor outcomes, such as institutionalization and mortality, and may be exacerbated by sensory loss. Hearing loss is also highly prevalent among older adults, including PWD. Objective: This study investigated the association between hearing loss and NPS among community- dwelling patients from a tertiary memory care center. Design, Setting, and Participants: Participants of this cross-sectional study were patients followed at the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer's Treatment Center who underwent audiometric testing during routine clinical practice between October 2014 and January 2017. Outcome Measurements: Included measures were scores on the Neuropsychiatric Inventory–Questionnaire and the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia. Results: Participants (n = 101) were on average 76 years old, mostly female and white, and had a mean Mini-Mental State Examination score of 23. We observed a positive association between audiometric hearing loss and the number of NPS (b = 0.7 per 10 dB; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.2, 1.1; t = 2.86; p = 0.01; df = 85), NPS severity (b = 1.3 per 10 dB; 95% CI: 0.4, 2.5; t = 2.13; p = 0.04; df = 80), and depressive symptom severity (b = 1.5 per 10 dB; 95% CI: 0.4, 2.5; t = 2.83; p = 0.01; df = 89) after adjustment for demographic and clinical characteristics. Additionally, the use of hearing aids was inversely associated with the number of NPS (b = −2.09; 95% CI −3.44, −0.75; t = −3.10; p = 0.003; df = 85), NPS severity (b = −3.82; 95% CI −7.19, −0.45; t = −2.26; p = 0.03; df = 80), and depressive symptom severity (b = −2.94; 95% CI: −5.93, 0.06; t = 1.70; p = 0.05; df = 89). Conclusion: Among patients at a memory clinic, increasing severity of hearing loss was associated with a greater number of NPS, more severe NPS, and more severe depressive symptoms, while hearing aid use was associated with fewer NPS, lower severity, and less severe depressive symptoms. Identifying and addressing hearing loss may be a promising, low-risk, non-pharmacological intervention in preventing and treating NPS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)544-553
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Hearing loss
  • cognitive impairment
  • dementia
  • hearing care
  • neuropsychiatric symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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