Katrien Vermeire1, Adrian Fuente2
Long Island University, New York City, USA
2Institut Universitaire de Geriatrie de Montreal Research Center, Montreal, Canada

Healthy aging is a priority as the proportion of older adults is drastically increasing. In developed regions the population aged 60 or over is expected to nearly double in 50 years. The prevalence of cognitive decline and dementia increase with age. Age-related hearing impairment (ARHI) is a potential contributor to cognitive decline in older adults and has been shown to relate to poor cognitive performance and dementia. Considering the high prevalence of ARHI and its impact on cognitive performance, there is a need to find protective factors against the effect of ARHI on cognitive performance.

Today, more of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual than monolingual. Bilingualism has positive effects on cognition and bilingual older adults experience less cognitive decline. However, previous studies on the relationship between bilingualism and cognition have not controlled for ARHI and thus it cannot be determined if bilingualism has a protective effect on cognitive performance in older adults with ARHI.

The aim of this study is to determine if bilingualism offers protection against the negative effect of ARHI on cognition. We hypothesize that bilingual older adults will have better cognitive capacities than their monolingual peers with comparable hearing.

In this study, we will compare cognitive capacities between two groups of older adults (>65 years) with ARHI who do not use hearing aids. Individuals with hearing thresholds in the mild to moderate hearing loss range are considered potential participants. These individuals are to participate in working memory tests, the Reading Span Test and the Corsi Block Tapping test, to assess cognitive abilities. Results are collected and analyzed to determine whether bilingual older adults have better cognitive abilities compared to monolingual older adults with comparable hearing.