Poorer speech reception threshold in noise is associated with lower brain volume in auditory and cognitive processing regions

Mary Rudner, Mark Seeto, Gitte Keidser, Blake Johnson, Jerker Rönnberg

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    Purpose Hearing loss is associated with changes in brain volume in regions supporting auditory and cognitive processing. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there is a systematic association between hearing ability and brain volume in cross-sectional data from a large nonclinical cohort of middle-aged adults available from the UK Biobank Resource ( http://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk ). Method We performed a set of regression analyses to determine the association between speech reception threshold in noise (SRTn) and global brain volume as well as predefined regions of interest (ROIs) based on T1-weighted structural images, controlling for hearing-related comorbidities and cognition as well as demographic factors. In a 2nd set of analyses, we additionally controlled for hearing aid (HA) use. We predicted statistically significant associations globally and in ROIs including auditory and cognitive processing regions, possibly modulated by HA use. Results Whole-brain gray matter volume was significantly lower for individuals with poorer SRTn. Furthermore, the volume of 9 predicted ROIs including both auditory and cognitive processing regions was lower for individuals with poorer SRTn. The greatest percentage difference (-0.57%) in ROI volume relating to a 1 SD worsening of SRTn was found in the left superior temporal gyrus. HA use did not substantially modulate the pattern of association between brain volume and SRTn. Conclusions In a large middle-aged nonclinical population, poorer hearing ability is associated with lower brain volume globally as well as in cortical and subcortical regions involved in auditory and cognitive processing, but there was no conclusive evidence that this effect is moderated by HA use. This pattern of results supports the notion that poor hearing leads to reduced volume in brain regions recruited during speech understanding under challenging conditions. These findings should be tested in future longitudinal, experimental studies. Supplemental Material https://doi.org/10.23641/asha.7949357.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1117-1130
    Number of pages14
    JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
    Issue number4S
    Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2019
    EventAging and Speech Communication Conference (7th : 2017) - Tampau, United States
    Duration: 1 Nov 2017 → …

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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