Abstract Neurophysiologic measures are particularly sensitive to alterations in attention and arousal. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the auditory adaptation of normal and mildly demented elderly people. We compared the automatic behavior of an auditory evoked potential (N100) in three age-matched groups of elderly subjects, one with familial Alzheimer’s disease (AD), one with sporadic AD and one healthy group. All AD subjects corresponded clinically and neuropsychologically with the early stage of dementia. The dynamic range of auditory adaptation is known to be related to age, and normal auditory adaptation for the age was observed in our healthy aged and sporadic AD subjects, whereas the familial AD subjects lacked normal adaptation. The familial AD subjects also showed statistically significantly smaller peak amplitudes and shorter latencies of the N100 throughout the habituation test. This persistent difference in automatic habituation of sensory responses supports the view that different subtypes of AD are differentially affected. The observed differences give an objective measure of the impaired involuntary adaptive functions of neuronal networks involved in auditory processing in subtypes of AD. Since habituation reflects the most primitive stage of learning and short-term memory, altered habituation may predict faster deterioration of clinical status in the familial group of AD subjects.