SRTn and brain volume (Rudner et al., 2019)

Purpose: Hearing loss is associated with changes in brain volume in regions supporting auditory and cognitive processing. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there is a systematic association between hearing ability and brain volume in cross-sectional data from a large nonclinical cohort of middle-aged adults available from the UK Biobank Resource (http://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk).
Method: We performed a set of regression analyses to determine the association between speech reception threshold in noise (SRTn) and global brain volume as well as predefined regions of interest (ROIs) based on T1-weighted structural images, controlling for hearing-related comorbidities and cognition as well as demographic factors. In a 2nd set of analyses, we additionally controlled for hearing aid (HA) use. We predicted statistically significant associations globally and in ROIs including auditory and cognitive processing regions, possibly modulated by HA use.
Results: Whole-brain gray matter volume was significantly lower for individuals with poorer SRTn. Furthermore, the volume of 9 predicted ROIs including both auditory and cognitive processing regions was lower for individuals with poorer SRTn. The greatest percentage difference (−0.57%) in ROI volume relating to a 1 SD worsening of SRTn was found in the left superior temporal gyrus. HA use did not substantially modulate the pattern of association between brain volume and SRTn.
Conclusions: In a large middle-aged nonclinical population, poorer hearing ability is associated with lower brain volume globally as well as in cortical and subcortical regions involved in auditory and cognitive processing, but there was no conclusive evidence that this effect is moderated by HA use. This pattern of results supports the notion that poor hearing leads to reduced volume in brain regions recruited during speech understanding under challenging conditions. These findings should be tested in future longitudinal, experimental studies.

Supplemental Material S1. Model 1.

Supplemental Material S2. Model 2.

Rudner, M., Seeto, M., Keidser, G., Johnson, B., & Rönnberg, J. (2019). Poorer speech reception threshold in noise is associated with lower brain volume in auditory and cognitive processing regions. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 62(4S), XXX-XXX. https://doi.org/10.1044/2018_JSLHR-H-ASCC7-18-0142

Publisher Note: This article is part of the Special Issue: Select Papers From the 7th Aging and Speech Communication Conference.