Association between hearing loss and development of dementia using formal behavioural audiometric testing within the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging (MCSA): a prospective population-based study

John P. Marinelli, Christine M. Lohse, Wanda L. Fussell, Ronald C. Petersen, Nicholas S. Reed, Mary M. Machulda, Maria Vassilaki, Matthew L. Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Hearing loss has been identified as a potential major modifiable risk factor for developing dementia. This study examined associations between formal behavioural pure-tone and speech audiometry assessed by an audiologist with development of dementia in the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging (MCSA). Methods: The MCSA is a prospective population-based study examining the incidence, prevalence, and risk factors of mild cognitive impairment and dementia in Olmsted County, Minnesota, USA. Participants undergo clinical examinations with neuropsychological testing at enrolment and every 15 months. Participants were 50 years or older at enrolment between Nov 29, 2004, and Dec 23, 2019, who underwent formal behavioural audiometric evaluation by an audiologist due to concerns about hearing loss or as a part of annual comprehensive health assessments. Associations of pure-tone average (PTA) and word recognition scores (WRS) with the development of dementia were evaluated using Cox proportional hazards regression with age as the timescale, and associations with changes in cognitive testing scores over time were evaluated using linear mixed-effects models. Findings: Among 1200 eligible participants, the mean age at enrolment was 79 years (SD 9), 593 (49%) were men, and 207 developed dementia during a mean of 7·0 years (SD 3·7) of follow-up. After adjusting for sex, years of education, smoking status, diabetes, hypertension, apolipoprotein E ε4 carriership, and hearing rehabilitation (defined as hearing aid or cochlear implant use), neither PTA (hazard ratio [HR] per 10-decibels hearing level increase of 0·99 (95% CI 0·89–1·12; p=0·91) nor WRS (HR per 10% decrease of 0·98, 95% CI 0·89–1 ·07; p=0·65) was significantly associated with the development of dementia. However, both PTA and WRS were significantly associated with poorer performance in cognitive testing over time: participants with a PTA higher than 25 decibels hearing level or a WRS lower than 100% had significantly worse declines in cognitive testing scores. Informant-based hearing difficulties assessed by the participant's study partner were significantly associated with the development of dementia (HR 1·95, 95% CI 1·45–2·62; p<0·0001). Interpretation: In this prospective population-based study, subjective informant-based hearing difficulties were associated with development of dementia, whereas objective measures on formal behavioural audiometry were predictive of poorer performance on cognitive testing over time but not the development of dementia. Other factors related to central processing might potentiate the effects of peripheral hearing loss detected on behavioural audiometric testing. Funding: National Institute of Health, the Alexander Family Alzheimer's Disease Research Professorship of the Mayo Clinic, the GHR Foundation, the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, the Liston Award, the Schuler Foundation, the Rochester Epidemiology Project medical records linkage system, and the National Institute on Aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e817-e824
JournalThe Lancet Healthy Longevity
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Family Practice


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