Journal Mobile Options
Table of Contents
Vol. 52, No. 6, 2006
Issue release date: October 2006
Gerontology 2006;52:386–394

Sensory and Cognitive Association in Older Persons: Findings from an Older Australian Population

Tay T. · Wang J.J. · Kifley A. · Lindley R. · Newall P. · Mitchell P.
aCentre for Vision Research, Department of Ophthalmology, Westmead Millennium Institute, bDepartment of Geriatric Medicine, Western Clinical School, University of Sydney, and cDepartment of Linguistics, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

Individual Users: Register with Karger Login Information

Please create your User ID & Password

Contact Information

I have read the Karger Terms and Conditions and agree.

To view the fulltext, please log in

To view the pdf, please log in


Background: Explanations for associations found between sensory and cognitive function remain unclear. Objective: To assess in an older Australian population: (1) the correlation between sensory and cognitive function across groups with a narrow age range; (2) any independent association between sensory and cognitive impairment. Methods: We examined 3,509 non-institutionalised residents aged 50+ years in the second cross-sectional survey of the Blue Mountains Eye Study (1997–2000). Visual impairment was defined for best-corrected visual acuity (VA) <6/12 in the better eye, moderate to severe hearing loss for hearing threshold >40 dB (better ear), and likely cognitive impairment for Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) <24 points. Results: We found likely cognitive impairment in 3.3%, vision impairment in 2.7% and moderate to severe hearing loss in 10.5% of this population. Correlation between VA or hearing threshold and MMSE score increased with age. After adjusting for age, weak but significant correlation was evident in the normal ageing sample between vision and MMSE (r = 0.12 with vision items included and r = 0.11 with vision items excluded, both p < 0.0001), and between hearing thresholds and MMSE (r = –0.12, p < 0.0001). After adjusting for age, sex, education and history of stroke, persons with vision impairment had a lower mean MMSE score than those with normal vision, regardless of whether vision-related items were included (27.1 vs. 28.6, p < 0.001) or excluded (19.8 vs. 21.0, p < 0.001). Similarly, persons with moderate to severe hearing loss had a lower mean MMSE score than those without hearing loss (28.1 vs. 28.7, p < 0.001). Persons with likely cognitive impairment also had lower mean VA and higher mean hearing threshold than those without, after adjustment. Conclusions: We have documented an age-related correlation between sensory and cognitive function in a normal ageing sample. The association between sensory impairment and likely cognitive impairment remained significant after excluding vision-related MMSE items and adjusting for confounding factors. Our data suggest that age-related decline and the effect of visual impairment on the measurement of cognition only partly explain the association between sensory and cognitive impairments in older persons.

Copyright / Drug Dosage

Copyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher or, in the case of photocopying, direct payment of a specified fee to the Copyright Clearance Center.
Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in goverment regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug.
Disclaimer: The statements, opinions and data contained in this publication are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the publishers and the editor(s). The appearance of advertisements or/and product references in the publication is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services advertised or of their effectiveness, quality or safety. The publisher and the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content or advertisements.


  1. Lindenberger U, Baltes PB: Sensory functioning and intelligence in old age: a strong connection. Psychol Aging 1994;9:339–355.
  2. Anstey KJ, Luszcz MA, Sanchez L: A reevaluation of the common factor theory of shared variance among age, sensory function, and cognitive function in older adults. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 2001;56:3–11.
  3. Anstey KJ, Luszcz MA, Sanchez L: Two-year decline in vision but not hearing is associated with memory decline in very old adults in a population-based sample. Gerontology 2001;47:289–293.
  4. Anstey KJ, Hofer SM, Luszcz MA: A latent growth curve analysis of late-life sensory and cognitive function over 8 years: evidence for specific and common factors underlying change. Psychol Aging 2003;18:714–726.
  5. Valentijn SA, van Boxtel MP, van Hooren SA, Bosma H, Beckers HJ, Ponds RW, Jolles J: Change in sensory functioning predicts change in cognitive functioning: results from a 6-year follow-up in the Maastricht Aging Study. J Am Geriatr Soc 2005;53:374–380.
  6. Hofer SM, Berg S, Era P: Evaluating the interdependence of aging-related changes in visual and auditory acuity, balance, and cognitive functioning. Psychol Aging 2003;18:285–305.
  7. Foran S, Wang JJ, Mitchell P: Causes of visual impairment in two older population cross-sections: the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Ophthalmic Epidemiol 2003;10:215–225.
  8. Attebo K, Mitchell P, Smith W: Visual acuity and the causes of visual loss in Australia. The Blue Mountains Eye Study. Ophthalmology 1996;103:357–364.
  9. Sindhusake D, Mitchell P, Smith W, Golding M, Newall P, Hartley D, Rubin G: Validation of self-reported hearing loss. The Blue Mountains Hearing Study. Int J Epidemiol 2001;30:1371–1378.
  10. Folstein MF, Folstein SE, McHugh PR: ‘Mini-Mental State’: A practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinician. J Psychiatr Res 1975;12:189–198.
  11. Reischies FM, Geiselmann B: Age-related cognitive decline and vision impairment affecting the detection of dementia syndrome in old age. Br J Psychiatry 1997;171:449–451.
  12. Jagger C, Clarke M, Anderson J, Battcock T: Misclassification of dementia by the mini-mental state examination – are education and social class the only factors? Age Ageing 1992;21:404–411.
  13. Holtsberg PA, Poon LW, Noble CA, Martin P: Mini-Mental State Exam status of community-dwelling cognitively intact centenarians. Int Psychogeriatr 1995;7:417–427.
  14. Lin MY, Gutierrez PR, Stone KL, Yaffe K, Ensrud KE, Fink HA, Sarkisian CA, Coleman AL, Mangione CM: Vision impairment and combined vision and hearing impairment predict cognitive and functional decline in older women. J Am Geriatr Soc 2004;52:1996–2002.
  15. Tamura H, Tsukamoto H, Mukai S, Kato T, Minamoto A, Ohno Y, Yamashita H, Mishima HK: Improvement in cognitive impairment after cataract surgery in elderly patients. J Cataract Refract Surg 2004;30:598–602.

Pay-per-View Options
Direct payment This item at the regular price: USD 38.00
Payment from account With a Karger Pay-per-View account (down payment USD 150) you profit from a special rate for this and other single items.
This item at the discounted price: USD 26.50