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RESEARCH STUDY

RESEARCH

Two-Year Decline in Vision but Not Hearing Is Associated with Memory Decline in Very Old Adults in A Population-Based Sample

AUTHOR:

Kaarin Anstey

SPONSOR/INSTITUTION:

YEAR PUBLISHED:

2001

PUBLICATION:

Gerontology

KEY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The common association between visual acuity, auditory thresholds and cognitive function observed in cross-sectional studies appears to be disassociated in longitudinal studies.

SUMMARY

BACKGROUND: Recent cross-sectional research in cognitive aging has demonstrated a robust association between visual acuity, auditory thresholds and cognitive performance in old age. However, the nature of the association is still unclear, particularly with respect to whether sensory and cognitive function are causally related.


OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to determine whether marked declines in performance on screening measures of either visual acuity or auditory thresholds have an effect on cognitive decline over 2 years.


METHODS: The sample from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing (n = 2,087) were assessed in 1992 and 1994 on measures of sensory and cognitive function as part of a larger clinical assessment. A quasi-experimental design involving comparison of extreme groups using repeated measures MANCOVA with age as a covariate was used.


RESULTS: Group performance on measures of hearing, memory, verbal ability and processing speed declined significantly. Decline in visual acuity had a significant effect on memory decline, but not on decline in verbal ability or processing speed. Decline in hearing was not associated with decline in any cognitive domain.


CONCLUSION: The common association between visual acuity, auditory thresholds and cognitive function observed in cross-sectional studies appears to be disassociated in longitudinal studies.