To study the relation between the microstructure of white matter in the brain and hearing function in older adults we carried out a population-based, cross-sectional study. In 2562 participants of the Rotterdam Study, we conducted diffusion tensor imaging to determine the microstructure of the white-matter tracts. We performed pure-tone audiogram and digit-in-noise tests to quantify hearing acuity. Poorer white-matter microstructure, especially in the association tracts, was related to poorer hearing acuity. After differentiating the separate white-matter tracts in the left and right hemisphere, poorer white-matter microstructure in the right superior longitudinal fasciculus and the right uncinate fasciculus remained significantly associated with worse hearing. These associations did not significantly differ between middle-aged (51–69 years old) and older (70–100 years old) participants. Progressing age was thus not found to be an effect modifier. In a voxel-based analysis no voxels in the white matter were significantly associated with hearing impairment.

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Keywords Age-related hearing impairment, DTI, Hearing acuity, Pure-tone audiogram, Superior longitudinal fasciculus, Uncinate fasciculus, Voxel-based analysis, White-matter tract
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Journal Neurobiology of Aging: age-related phenomena, neurodegeneration and neuropathology
Rigters, S.C, Cremers, L.G.M, Ikram, M.A, van der Schroeff, M.P, de Groot, M, Roshchupkin, G.V, … Vernooij, M.W. (2018). White-matter microstructure and hearing acuity in older adults: a population-based cross-sectional DTI study. Neurobiology of Aging: age-related phenomena, neurodegeneration and neuropathology, 61, 124–131. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2017.09.018