What does hearing loss have to do with multitasking?

In fact, age-related hearing loss, which affects one in three adults over the age of 65, has been linked to slower walking speed, risk of falling, decreased balance, cognitive decline, and decreased out-of-home activity.

Importantly, hearing loss begins gradually in midlife and for many, does not progress to a diagnosed impairment requiring hearing aids. Nevertheless, can still interfere with communication, social interaction, memory, and feelings of fatigue. If you have ever had a conversation in a very noisy room, you may have noticed how difficult and fatiguing it is to pay attention to what a friend or loved one is saying. Similarly, walking requires attention to maintain balance and navigate your environment. Therefore, having a conversation while walking is extra taxing on the brain.

With this in mind, it is clear how individuals affected by hearing loss may have greater difficulty with listening and walking at the same time. Aging researchers have shown the benefits of computerized brain training to improve cognitive function and mobility. What is still unclear is whether brain training is beneficial, above and beyond the usual treatment of adopting hearing aids, to strengthen attentional capacity that is needed for multitasking. We believe it would work by decreasing the amount of effort required to divide one’s attention between different tasks.

Dr. Karen Li’s Laboratory for Adult Development & Cognitive Aging at Concordia University (Loyola campus) is actively recruiting older adults (65+) who are experienced hearing aid users (6+ months) for a study evaluating the benefits of brain training on multitasking. These games involve viewing pictures for rapid identification, short-term memory exercises, and practice with attentional focus, all done online from home. Participation will be compensated. Our mission is to promote awareness and increase knowledge about the importance of age-related hearing loss on physical and cognitive health.

Our study involves a 12-week brain training that targets the cognitive resources involved in hearing and mobility that may improve multitasking, reduce risk of falling, and allow older adults to maintain quality of life, as well as safely and independently carry out daily living activities. In-person assessments of functioning will take place before and after the training.

If you have any questions about this study or wish to express interest in participating, please contact the Li Lab at karenlilab@gmail.com.

The lab regularly recruits participants for other studies on mobility and cognitive health. Visit our website www.concordia.ca/artsci/psychology/research/lilab/contact to explore upcoming opportunities and get in touch with our team.

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