Brandeis researchers say older people suffering a hearing loss might also lose the ability to remember spoken language.
The researchers said older adults with mild to moderate hearing loss might expend so much cognitive energy on hearing accurately, their ability to remember spoken language suffers as a result.
The study showed even when older adults could hear words well enough to repeat them, their ability to memorize and remember the words was poorer when compared with other individuals of the same age who had good hearing.
"There are subtle effects of hearing loss on memory and cognitive function in older adults," said Arthur Wingfield, the Nancy Lurie Marks Professor of Neuroscience and director of the Volen National Center for Complex Systems. "This study is a wake-up call to anyone who works with older people, including healthcare professionals, to be especially sensitive to how hearing loss can affect cognitive function."
He suggested individuals who interact with older people with some hearing loss could modify how they speak by speaking clearly and pausing after clauses, or chunks of meaning, not necessarily slowing down speech dramatically. The research appears in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.
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