Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 223, Issue 1, pp 145–163 | Cite as

Neuroanatomical and resting state EEG power correlates of central hearing loss in older adults

  • Nathalie GiroudEmail author
  • Sarah Hirsiger
  • Raphaela Muri
  • Andrea Kegel
  • Norbert Dillier
  • Martin Meyer
Original Article


To gain more insight into central hearing loss, we investigated the relationship between cortical thickness and surface area, speech-relevant resting state EEG power, and above-threshold auditory measures in older adults and younger controls. Twenty-three older adults and 13 younger controls were tested with an adaptive auditory test battery to measure not only traditional pure-tone thresholds, but also above individual thresholds of temporal and spectral processing. The participants’ speech recognition in noise (SiN) was evaluated, and a T1-weighted MRI image obtained for each participant. We then determined the cortical thickness (CT) and mean cortical surface area (CSA) of auditory and higher speech-relevant regions of interest (ROIs) with FreeSurfer. Further, we obtained resting state EEG from all participants as well as data on the intrinsic theta and gamma power lateralization, the latter in accordance with predictions of the Asymmetric Sampling in Time hypothesis regarding speech processing (Poeppel, Speech Commun 41:245–255, 2003). Methodological steps involved the calculation of age-related differences in behavior, anatomy and EEG power lateralization, followed by multiple regressions with anatomical ROIs as predictors for auditory performance. We then determined anatomical regressors for theta and gamma lateralization, and further constructed all regressions to investigate age as a moderator variable. Behavioral results indicated that older adults performed worse in temporal and spectral auditory tasks, and in SiN, despite having normal peripheral hearing as signaled by the audiogram. These behavioral age-related distinctions were accompanied by lower CT in all ROIs, while CSA was not different between the two age groups. Age modulated the regressions specifically in right auditory areas, where a thicker cortex was associated with better auditory performance in older adults. Moreover, a thicker right supratemporal sulcus predicted more rightward theta lateralization, indicating the functional relevance of the right auditory areas in older adults. The question how age-related cortical thinning and intrinsic EEG architecture relates to central hearing loss has so far not been addressed. Here, we provide the first neuroanatomical and neurofunctional evidence that cortical thinning and lateralization of speech-relevant frequency band power relates to the extent of age-related central hearing loss in older adults. The results are discussed within the current frameworks of speech processing and aging.


Cortical thickness Cortical surface area Central hearing loss Speech processing Speech-in-noise Resting state EEG power Aging 



This research was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant no. 105314_152905  to MM), the ‘Fonds zur Förderung des akademischen Nachwuchses’ (FAN) of the ‘Zürcher Universitätsvereins’ (ZUNIV) (MM) and by the ‘Forschungskredit’ of the University of Zurich (Grant no. K-60241-01-01 to NG). We thank Dr. Susan Mérillat and Prof. Lutz Jäncke for their support in recruiting older participants through the lhab study (Zöllig et al. 2011) and providing us with the T1-weighted MR sequence and cognitive tasks used in this study. Furthermore, we are indebted to Allison Christen for proofreading the manuscript. During the work on her dissertation, NG was a pre-doctoral fellow of the International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathalie Giroud
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sarah Hirsiger
    • 3
  • Raphaela Muri
    • 1
  • Andrea Kegel
    • 4
  • Norbert Dillier
    • 4
  • Martin Meyer
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.Research Unit for Neuroplasticity and Learning in the Healthy Aging Brain, Department of PsychologyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.University Research Priority Program “Dynamics of Healthy Aging”, Department of PsychologyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and PsychosomaticsPsychiatric Hospital of the University of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Experimental Audiology, Department of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, Head and Neck SurgeryUniversity Hospital ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  5. 5.Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of PsychologyUniversity of KlagenfurtKlagenfurtAustria

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