Longitudinal associations between hearing loss and general cognitive ability: The Lothian Birth Cohort 1936

Judith Okely, Michael A. Akeroyd, Michael Allerhand, John Starr, Ian Deary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Hearing impairment is associated with poorer cognitive function in later life. We tested for the potential contribution of childhood cognitive ability to this relationship. Childhood cognitive ability is strongly related to cognitive function in older age, and may be related to auditory function through its association with hearing impairment risk factors. Using data from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936, we tested whether childhood cognitive ability predicted later-life hearing ability then whether this association was mediated by demographic or health differences. We found that childhood cognitive ability was negatively associated with hearing impairment risk at age 76 (odds ratio = .834, p = .042). However, this association was non-significant following subsequent adjustment for potentially mediating demographic and health factors. Next, we tested whether associations observed in older age between hearing impairment and general cognitive ability level or change were accounted for by childhood cognitive ability. At age 76, in the minimally adjusted model, hearing impairment was associated with poorer general cognitive ability level (β = -.119, p = .030) but was not related to decline in general cognitive ability. The former association became non-significant following additional adjustment for childhood cognitive ability (β = -.068; p = .426) suggesting that childhood cognitive ability contributes (potentially via demographic and health differences) to the association between levels of hearing and cognitive function in older age. Further work is needed to test whether early-life cognitive ability also contributes to the association (documented in previous studies) between older-age hearing impairment and cognitive decline.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology and Aging
Early online date8 Aug 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Aug 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • cognitive ageing
  • hearing loss
  • childhood cognitive ability
  • longitudinal study


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