Forgetting Hertz
Grace Luo, Nicole Seto
Sir Winston Churchill
Floor Location : M 082 H

Does hearing loss possibly contribute to the deterioration of memory functions in people aged 30 to 80? If so, early detection and prevention of hearing loss could help in delaying and minimizing the decline of memory in older people, and dementia-causing diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Our hypothesis stated that if people aged 30-80 with varying hearing ranges take a visual memory test, then those with a hearing range less than 40Hz to 12kHz will have a score less than the total average test score because moderate to severe hearing loss begins to affect one's ability to understand normal speech and interact socially, which can have negative repercussions on their cognitive functions.

To collect data regarding our hypothesis, firstly we conducted a hearing test, using an online tone generator, on each of the test subjects to determine their range of hearing. Then, each person took a visual memory test we created, consisting of an image that they had two minutes to observe, followed by a minute of wait time, and finally five multiple-choice questions to answer regarding the image.

From the data we collected, we separated the test subjects into three categories based on their hearing range: 40hz to 12kHz, 20hz-16kHz, and 20hz-20kHz. An average test score was calculated for each group, as well as the total average test score for all test subjects. We found that our hypothesis was verified by the data, as the average score of the 40hz to 12kHz group was 1.98 below the total average score. As well, every individual in this group scored 16 or lower, meaning they all scored less than the total average. The other two hearing range groups both had average test scores greater than the total average. The 20hz-16kHz group had an average score 0.97 higher, and the 20hz-20kHz group had an average score 0.17 higher than the total average.

After further research and analysis of the results, there seem to be a few possibilities as to how hearing loss may be correlated to memory loss. It may be that because hearing loss is correlated to social isolation, damaging effects on the brain occur, including its memory functions. As well, when hearing loss occurs, the brain undergoes compensatory adaptation, thus contributing to cognitive decline. At the same time, a correlation may not exist, because both occur as part of the natural ageing process.

In conclusion, although the collected data did verify our hypothesis, we could not confirm with great certainty that a correlation between hearing and memory loss exists, as there were many sources of error and alternate explanations for the results. However,many future investigations can be conducted to further confirm this correlation. For example, a visual memory test could be done on participants of the same age, but with different levels of hearing loss, based on a professional hearing test. All in all, our experiment did not completely confirm a correlation between memory and hearing loss, but it did show a glimmer of hope that the correlation may indeed exist.