Hearing loss in a memory disorders clinic. A specially vulnerable population

Arch Neurol. 1996 Sep;53(9):922-8. doi: 10.1001/archneur.1996.00550090134019.


Objectives: To determine the prevalence and characteristics of hearing loss in patients undergoing examination because of a memory disorder, to determine whether currently used screening tools were adequate for use in this specific population, and to determine if patients with Alzheimer disease reliably report hearing problems.

Design: Case-control study.

Patients: A consecutive sample of 52 patients: 30 patients who met the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke/Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association criteria for probable Alzheimer disease (group 1) and 22 patients with other forms of cognitive impairment (group 2).

Methods: Patients underwent a hearing screening that included a case history, a visual inspection of the external ear canal and tympanic membrane, and pure tone audiometry. Patients and their caregivers completed a questionnaire intended to assess hearing impairment and perceived disability.

Outcome measures: Pass or fail on pure tone audiometry and pass or fail on a hearing impairment questionnaire.

Results: Of the 52 patients, 49 had significant hearing loss. No difference was found in the failure rate between patients in groups 1 and 2. In group 1, a significant discrepancy was found between the patient's self-report and that of their caregivers, whereas in group 2, the self-report was reliable. The prevalence of hearing loss in this population greatly exceeds the prevalence in healthy aged controls.

Conclusion: The extraordinarily high prevalence of hearing loss in this selected population suggests that a hearing evaluation should be part of any assessment of cognitive function.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / complications
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Audiometry, Pure-Tone
  • Caregivers
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognition
  • Dementia / complications
  • Dementia / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder / complications
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Hearing Loss / diagnosis
  • Hearing Loss / epidemiology*
  • Hearing Loss / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking
  • Memory Disorders / complications
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Physical Examination
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vision Tests