Objectives: To examine the longitudinal relationship between sensory functioning and a broad range of cognitive functions after 6 years follow-up and whether cataract surgery or first-time hearing aid use affected cognition.
Design: Hierarchical regression procedures were employed to determine whether sensory functioning was predictive of cognitive performance.
Setting: Maastricht University and the University Hospital Maastricht, the Netherlands.
Participants: Older Dutch adults (>/=55) enrolled in the Maastricht Aging Study (N=418).
Measurements: Visual and auditory acuity, the Visual Verbal Learning Test (VVLT), the Stroop Color Word Test (SCWT), the Concept Shifting Task (CST), the Verbal Fluency Test, and the Letter-Digit Substitution Test (LDST).
Results: A change in visual acuity was associated with change in most cognitive measures, including the total and recall scores of the VVLT, the mean score of the first two SCWT cards, the mean score of the first two CST cards and the LDST. In addition, a change in auditory acuity predicted change in memory performance (VVLT total and recall scores), and auditory acuity measured at baseline predicted change in the mean score of the first two SCWT cards and the LDST.
Conclusion: The findings support the notion of a strong connection between sensory acuity in auditory and visual domains and cognitive performance measures, both from a cross-sectional and a longitudinal perspective. They also suggest that it is essential to screen older individuals in a clinical context for sensory functioning so that changes in visual or auditory acuity are not interpreted as changes in cognitive performance.