Association of Performance on Dichotic Auditory Tests With Risk for Incident Dementia and Alzheimer Dementia.

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Publication Date


Publication Title

JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg


washington; seattle; swedish


Importance: Age-related hearing difficulties can include problems with signal audibility and central auditory processing. Studies have demonstrated associations between audibility and dementia risk. To our knowledge, limited data exist to determine whether audibility, central processing, or both drive these associations.

Objective: To determine the associations between signal sensitivity, central auditory processing, and dementia and Alzheimer dementia (AD) risk.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This follow-up observational study of a sample from the prospective Adult Changes in Thought study of dementia risk was conducted at Kaiser Permanente Washington, a western Washington health care delivery system, and included 280 volunteer participants without dementia who were evaluated from October 2003 to February 2006 with follow-up through September 2018. Analyses began in 2019 and continued through 2021.

Exposures: Hearing tests included pure tone signal audibility, a monaural word recognition test, and 2 dichotic tests: the Dichotic Sentence Identification (DSI) test and the Dichotic Digits test (DDT).

Main Outcomes and Measures: Cognition was assessed biennially with the Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument (range, 1-100; higher scores are better), and scores of less than 86 prompted clinical and neuropsychological evaluations. All data were reviewed at multidisciplinary consensus conferences, and standardized criteria were used to define incident cases of dementia and probable or possible AD. Cox proportional hazard models were used to determine associations with hearing test performance.

Results: A total of 280 participants (177 women [63%]; mean [SD] age, 79.5 [5.2] years). As of September 2018, there were 2196 person-years of follow-up (mean, 7.8 years) and 89 incident cases of dementia (66 not previously analyzed), of which 84 (94.4%) were AD (63 not previously analyzed). Compared with people with DSI scores of more than 80, the dementia adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) for DSI scores of less than 50 was 4.18 (95% CI, 2.37-7.38; P < .001); for a DSI score of 50 to 80, it was 1.82 (95% CI, 1.10-3.04; P = .02). Compared with people with DDT scores of more than 80, the dementia aHR for DDT scores of less than 50 was 2.66 (95% CI, 1.31-5.42; P = .01); for a DDT score of 50 to 80, it was 2.40 (95% CI, 1.45-3.98; P = .001). The AD results were similar. Pure tone averages were weakly and insignificantly associated with dementia and AD, and associations were null when controlling for DSI scores.

Conclusions and Relevance: In this cohort study, abnormal central auditory processing as measured by dichotic tests was independently associated with dementia and AD risk.

Clinical Institute

Neurosciences (Brain & Spine)

Clinical Institute

Mental Health