NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Findings from a case-control study suggest that even mild memory impairment adversely affects central auditory function.

With central auditory dysfunction, patients experience difficulty hearing when other auditory stressors are present. For instance, they may have difficulty hearing a conversation at a cocktail party when a number of other conversations are taking place nearby.

In the present study, Dr. George A. Gates, from the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues used a variety of tests to assess central auditory function in 232 subjects without memory loss, 64 with mild memory impairment, and 17 with dementia.

The new findings appear in the Archives of Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery for July.

On all of the auditory tests, scores worsened as memory ability went from unimpaired to mildly impaired to dementia. This finding held true even after adjusting for age and peripheral hearing status.

"We recommend that central auditory testing be considered in the evaluation of older persons with hearing complaints as part of a comprehensive, individualized program to assist their needs in both the aural rehabilitative and the cognitive domains," the authors conclude.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2008;134:771-777.

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