Send to

Choose Destination
Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital. 2016 Jun;36(3):155-66. doi: 10.14639/0392-100X-993.

A review of new insights on the association between hearing loss and cognitive decline in ageing.

Author information

Otolaryngology Audiology and Phoniatric Unit, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy;
Department of Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome, Italy;
Department of Head and Neck Surgery - Otorhinolaryngology, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome, Italy.


in English, Italian

Age-related hearing loss (ARHL) has a multifactorial pathogenesis and it is an inevitable hearing impairment associated with reduction of communicative skills related to ageing. Increasing evidence has linked ARHL to more rapid progression of cognitive decline and incidental dementia. Many aspects of daily living of elderly people have been associated to hearing abilities, showing that hearing loss (HL) affects the quality of life, social relationships, motor skills, psychological aspects and function and morphology in specific brain areas. Epidemiological and clinical studies confirm the assumption of a relationship between these conditions. However, the mechanisms are still unclear and are reviewed herein. Long-term hearing deprivation of auditory inputs can impact cognitive performance by decreasing the quality of communication leading to social isolation and depression and facilitate dementia. On the contrary, the limited cognitive skills may reduce the cognitive resources available for auditory perception, increasing the effects of HL. In addition, hearing loss and cognitive decline may reflect a 'common cause' on the auditory pathway and brain. In fact, some pathogenetic factors are recongised in common microvascular disease factors such as diabetes, atherosclerosis and hypertension. Interdisciplinary efforts to investigate and address HL in the context of brain and cognitive ageing are needed. Surprisingly, few studies have been adressed on the effectiveness of hearing aids in changing the natural history of cognitive decline. Effective interventions with hearing aids or cochlear implant may improve social and emotional function, communication, cognitive function and positively impact quality of life. The aim of this review is to overview new insights on this challenging topic and provide new ideas for future research.


Cochlear implant; Cognitive impairment; Dementia; Elderly; Hearing loss

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center