Promoting brain health: The link between attention, mobility, and hearing in late adulthood

Do you or someone you know have hearing loss?

As we age, it is normal to experience difficulties with hearing. In fact, one in three older adults over the age of 65 have age-related hearing loss.

Difficulty hearing can be frustrating and fatiguing, as it requires effort to understand what others are saying, especially in a noisy environment.

This increased listening effort takes attentional resources away from the task you are trying to do, such as remembering or paying attention to something, or even walking or balancing!


The Role of Attention During Multi-tasking

While motor tasks, such as walking and balancing were once thought to be automatic, researchers have now shown that they actually require attention.

To understand this better, recall a time where you were deep in thought, perhaps trying to remember what was on your grocery list.

While thinking, you may have stopped walking or even sat down.

Situations such as these occur because with increasing age, attentional resources start to decline; and with the addition of poor hearing, it becomes even more challenging to balance or walk while also talking or thinking.


How to Improve Multi-Tasking

The Laboratory for Adult Development and Cognitive Aging at Concordia University is focused on researching how sensory and cognitive functions affect multi-tasking (i.e., walking or balancing while doing an attentional task) and how divided attention can be improved through computerized brain training.

We carefully design our training programs so that the processes involved in the trained tasks overlap with the same brain regions relevant for multi-tasking.

We also study older adults with hearing loss in the hopes of improving attentional performance to help maintain safe multi-tasking behaviors while walking and balancing.

To participate in a study or for more information about ongoing research in our lab, please visit our site or email the Li Lab directly.