According to John Gever in Medpage today researchers believe that central auditory testing may act as an early screen for cognitive decline in the elderly. George A. Gates, M.D. of the University of Washington and colleagues conducted a study of 313 patients at least 71 years old. They found that “several measures of central auditory processing were impaired in those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and, to a lesser extent, those with memory impairment but not meeting criteria for Alzheimer’s.”
Dr Gates explains that “Hearing speech involves detection, recognition, and comprehension, the latter being clearly a cognitive task.” He suggests that central processing test should be performed in older patients experiencing hearing loss, and that a negative finding on the hearing test can help alleviate some anxiety for the individual and verify that a hearing aid may help.
According to Dr. Gates the central processing tests are easy to administer because standardized prerecorded materials are used, and that the test could be used as a screening tool for cognitive decline. “He said central processing defects can be treated. Training programs have been developed that help patients listen more carefully to improve their comprehension.”