Hearing loss versus vestibular loss as contributors to cognitive dysfunction.

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In the last 5 years, there has been a surge in evidence that hearing loss (HL) may be a risk factor for cognitive dysfunction, including dementia. At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of studies implicating vestibular loss in cognitive dysfunction. Due to the fact that vestibular disorders often present with HL and other auditory disorders such as tinnitus, it has been suggested that, in many cases, what appears to be vestibular-related cognitive dysfunction may be due to HL (e.g., Dobbels et al. Front Neurol 11:710, 2020). This review analyses the studies of vestibular-related cognitive dysfunction which have controlled HL. It is suggested that despite the fact that many studies in the area have not controlled HL, many other studies have (~ 19/44 studies or 43%). Therefore, although there is certainly a need for further studies controlling HL, there is evidence to suggest that vestibular loss is associated with cognitive dysfunction, especially related to spatial memory. This is consistent with the overwhelming evidence from animal studies that the vestibular system transmits specific types of information about self-motion to structures such as the hippocampus.

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