Treatment of Age-Related Hearing Loss Alters Audiovisual Integration and Resting-State Functional Connectivity: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial

eNeuro. 2021 Dec 8;8(6):ENEURO.0258-21.2021. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0258-21.2021. Print Nov-Dec 2021.


Untreated age-related hearing loss increases audiovisual integration and impacts resting state functional brain connectivity. Further, there is a relation between crossmodal plasticity and audiovisual integration strength in cochlear implant patients. However, it is currently unclear whether amplification of the auditory input by hearing aids influences audiovisual integration and resting state functional brain connectivity. We conducted a randomized controlled pilot study to investigate how the McGurk illusion, a common measure for audiovisual integration, and resting state functional brain connectivity of the auditory cortex are altered by six-month hearing aid use. Thirty-two older participants with slight-to-moderate, symmetric, age-related hearing loss were allocated to a treatment or waiting control group and measured one week before and six months after hearing aid fitting with functional magnetic resonance imaging. Our results showed a statistical trend for an increased McGurk illusion after six months of hearing aid use. We further demonstrated that an increase in McGurk susceptibility is related to a decreased hearing aid benefit for auditory speech intelligibility in noise. No significant interaction between group and time point was obtained in the whole-brain resting state analysis. However, a region of interest (ROI)-to-ROI analysis indicated that hearing aid use of six months was associated with a decrease in resting state functional connectivity between the auditory cortex and the fusiform gyrus and that this decrease was related to an increase of perceived McGurk illusions. Our study, therefore, suggests that even short-term hearing aid use alters audiovisual integration and functional brain connectivity between auditory and visual cortices.

Keywords: audiovisual; fMRI; hearing aid; neuroimaging; plasticity; resting state.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Cortex* / diagnostic imaging
  • Auditory Perception
  • Hearing Loss*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Pilot Projects
  • Speech Perception*
  • Visual Perception