The Neural Consequences of Age-Related Hearing Loss

Trends Neurosci. 2016 Jul;39(7):486-497. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2016.05.001. Epub 2016 Jun 1.


During hearing, acoustic signals travel up the ascending auditory pathway from the cochlea to auditory cortex; efferent connections provide descending feedback. In human listeners, although auditory and cognitive processing have sometimes been viewed as separate domains, a growing body of work suggests they are intimately coupled. Here, we review the effects of hearing loss on neural systems supporting spoken language comprehension, beginning with age-related physiological decline. We suggest that listeners recruit domain general executive systems to maintain successful communication when the auditory signal is degraded, but that this compensatory processing has behavioral consequences: even relatively mild levels of hearing loss can lead to cascading cognitive effects that impact perception, comprehension, and memory, leading to increased listening effort during speech comprehension.

Keywords: auditory cortex; language; listening effort; speech comprehension.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Aging / psychology
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Hearing Loss / physiopathology*
  • Hearing Loss / psychology
  • Humans
  • Speech Perception / physiology*