Hearing impairment and incident dementia and cognitive decline in older adults: The health ABC study

For The Health Abc Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

175 Scopus citations


Background: Age-related peripheral hearing impairment (HI) is prevalent, treatable, and may be a risk factor for dementia in older adults. In prospective analysis, we quantified the association of HI with incident dementia and with domain-specific cognitive decline in memory, perceptual speed, and processing speed. Methods: Data were from the Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) study, a biracial cohort of well-functioning adults aged 70-79 years. Dementia was defined using a prespecified algorithm incorporating medication use, hospital records, and neurocognitive test scores. A pure-tone average in decibels hearing level (dBHL) was calculated in the better hearing ear using thresholds from 0.5 to 4 kHz, and HI was defined as normal hearing (≤25 dBHL), mild (26-40 dBHL), and moderate/severe (>40 dBHL). Associations between HI and incident dementia and between HI and cognitive change were modeled using Cox proportional hazards models and linear mixed models, respectively. Results: Three-hundred eighty seven (20%) participants had moderate/severe HI, and 716 (38%) had mild HI. After adjustment for demographic and cardiovascular factors, moderate/severe audiometric HI (vs. normal hearing) was associated with increased risk of incident dementia over 9 years (hazard ratio: 1.55, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.10, 2.19). Other than poorer baseline memory performance (difference of-0.24 SDs, 95% CI:-0.44,-0.04), no associations were observed between HI and rates of domain-specific cognitive change during 7 years of follow-up. Conclusions: HI is associated with increased risk of developing dementia in older adults. Randomized trials are needed to determine whether treatment of hearing loss could postpone dementia onset in older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)703-709
Number of pages7
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2017


  • Cognition
  • Cognitive aging
  • Epidemiology
  • Sensory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


Dive into the research topics of 'Hearing impairment and incident dementia and cognitive decline in older adults: The health ABC study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this