Age-related hearing loss increases cross-modal distractibility.

Hearing research

PubMedID: 25080386

Puschmann S, Sandmann P, Bendixen A, Thiel CM. Age-related hearing loss increases cross-modal distractibility. Hear Res. 2014;.
Recent electrophysiological studies have provided evidence that changes in multisensory processing in auditory cortex cannot only be observed following extensive hearing loss, but also in moderately hearing-impaired subjects. How the reduced auditory input affects audio-visual interactions is however largely unknown. Here we used a cross-modal distraction paradigm to investigate multisensory processing in elderly participants with an age-related high-frequency hearing loss as compared to young and elderly subjects with normal hearing. During the experiment, participants were simultaneously presented with independent streams of auditory and visual input and were asked to categorize either the auditory or visual information while ignoring the other modality. Unisensory sequences without any cross-modal input served as control conditions to assure that all participants were able to perform the task. While all groups performed similarly in these unisensory conditions, hearing-impaired participants showed significantly increased error rates when confronted with distracting cross-modal stimulation. This effect could be observed in both the auditory and the visual task. Supporting these findings, an additional regression analysis indicted that the degree of high-frequency hearing loss significantly modulates cross-modal visual distractibility in the auditory task. These findings provide new evidence that already a moderate sub-clinical hearing loss, a common phenomenon in the elderly population, affects the processing of audio-visual information.