OBJECTIVE: We aimed to determine whether hearing impairment (HI) in older adults is associated with the development of frailty and falls.
METHOD: Longitudinal analysis of observational data from the Health, Aging and Body Composition study of 2,000 participants aged 70 to 79 was conducted. Hearing was defined by the pure-tone-average of hearing thresholds at 0.5, 1, 2, and 4 kHz in the better hearing ear. Frailty was defined as a gait speed of <0.60 m/s and/or inability to rise from a chair without using arms. Falls were assessed annually by self-report.
RESULTS: Older adults with moderate-or-greater HI had a 63% increased risk of developing frailty (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] = 1.63, 95% confidence interval [CI] = [1.26, 2.12]) compared with normal-hearing individuals. Moderate-or-greater HI was significantly associated with a greater annual percent increase in odds of falling over time (9.7%, 95% CI = [7.0, 12.4] compared with normal hearing, 4.4%, 95% CI = [2.6, 6.2]).
DISCUSSION: HI is independently associated with the risk of frailty in older adults and with greater odds of falling over time.
- hearing impairment
- older adults
- Health ABC