Alzheimer’s Disease, Hearing Loss, and Deviance Detection

David Pérez-González, Thomas G. Schreiner, Daniel A. Llano, Manuel S. Malmierca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Age-related hearing loss is a widespread condition among the elderly, affecting communication and social participation. Given its high incidence, it is not unusual that individuals suffering from age-related hearing loss also suffer from other age-related neurodegenerative diseases, a scenario which severely impacts their quality of life. Furthermore, recent studies have identified hearing loss as a relevant risk factor for the development of dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease, although the underlying associations are still unclear. In order to cope with the continuous flow of auditory information, the brain needs to separate repetitive sounds from rare, unexpected sounds, which may be relevant. This process, known as deviance detection, is a key component of the sensory perception theory of predictive coding. According to this framework, the brain would use the available incoming information to make predictions about the environment and signal the unexpected stimuli that break those predictions. Such a system can be easily impaired by the distortion of auditory information processing that accompanies hearing loss. Changes in cholinergic neuromodulation have been found to alter auditory deviance detection both in humans and animal models. Interestingly, some theories propose a role for acetylcholine in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. Acetylcholine is involved in multiple neurobiological processes such as attention, learning, memory, arousal, sleep and/or cognitive reinforcement, and has direct influence on the auditory system at the levels of the inferior colliculus and auditory cortex. Here we comment on the possible links between acetylcholine, hearing loss, and Alzheimer’s disease, and association that is worth further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number879480
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jun 2 2022


  • acetylcholine
  • cholinergic
  • cognitive deficits
  • neurodegeneration
  • predictive coding
  • stimulus-specific adaptation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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