Research Forum  |   December 2012
The Effects of Aging on Auditory Processing and Cognition
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Victoria A. Williams
    Bay Pines VA HealthCare System, Bay Pines, FL
  • Brent J. Small
    University of South Florida, Tampa
  • Ervin R. Hafter
    University of California, Berkeley
  • Correspondence to Patricia A. Tun: tun@brandeis.edu
  • Editor and Associate Editor: Larry Humes
    Editor and Associate Editor: Larry Humes×
Hearing & Speech Perception / Hearing Disorders / Special Populations / Older Adults & Aging / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Research Forum
Research Forum   |   December 2012
The Effects of Aging on Auditory Processing and Cognition
American Journal of Audiology December 2012, Vol.21, 344-350. doi:10.1044/1059-0889(2012/12-0030)
History: Accepted 19 Aug 2012 , Received 04 Jun 2012 , Revised 14 Aug 2012
American Journal of Audiology December 2012, Vol.21, 344-350. doi:10.1044/1059-0889(2012/12-0030)
History: Accepted 19 Aug 2012 , Received 04 Jun 2012 , Revised 14 Aug 2012

Purpose: To briefly summarize existing data on effects of aging on auditory processing and cognition.

Method: A narrative review summarized previously reported data on age-related changes in auditory processing and in cognitive processes with a focus on spoken language comprehension and memory. In addition, recent data on effects of lifestyle engagement on cognitive processes are reviewed.

Results: There is substantial evidence for age-related declines in both auditory processes and cognitive abilities. Accumulating evidence supports the idea that the perceptual burden associated with hearing loss impacts the processing resources available for good comprehension and memory for spoken language, particularly in older adults with limited resources. However, many language abilities are well preserved in old age, and there is considerable variability among individuals in cognitive performance across the life span. The authors discuss how lifestyle factors and socioemotional engagement can help to offset declining abilities.

Conclusions: It is clear that spoken language processing in adulthood and old age is affected by changes in perceptual, cognitive, and socioemotional processes as well as by interactions among these changes. Recommendations for further research include studying speech comprehension in complex conditions, including meaningful-connection spoken language, and tailoring clinical interventions based on patients' auditory processing and cognitive abilities along with their individual socioemotional demands.

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