Hearing Impairment and Incident Frailty in English Community-Dwelling Older Adults

Hearing impairment is common in later life and is estimated to affect 20% of adults in Great Britain aged 60 and older. Age-related hearing impairment has been associated with comorbidity, disability, and poor quality of life, affecting independent living and overall well-being

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Image source: Franck Michel – Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Objectives: To examine the association between hearing impairment and incident frailty in older adults.

Design: Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses with 4-year follow-up using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

Participants: Community-dwelling individuals aged 60 and older with data on hearing and frailty status (N = 2,836).

Measurements: Hearing impairment was defined as poor self-reported hearing. Having none of the five Fried frailty phenotype components (slow walking, weak grip, self-reported exhaustion, weight loss and low physical activity) was defined as not frail, having one or two as prefrail, and having three or more as frail. Participants who were not frail at baseline were followed for incident prefrailty and frailty. Participants who were prefrail at baseline were followed for incident frailty.

Conclusion: Hearing impairment in prefrail older adults was associated with greater risk of becoming frail, independent of covariates, suggesting that hearing impairment may hasten the progression of frailty.

Full reference: Liljas, A.E.M. et al. (2017) Self-Reported Hearing Impairment and Incident Frailty inEnglish Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A 4-YearFollow-Up Study. The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 65(5) pp. 958–965,

Hearing Impairment and Undiagnosed Disease: The Potential Role of Clinical Recommendations

Marlow, N.M. et al. (2017) Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Vol. 60. pp 231-237.

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Purpose: The objective of this study was to use cross-sectional, nationally representative data to examine the relationship between self-reported hearing impairment and undetected diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and chronic kidney disease.

Conclusions: Individuals with hearing impairment are more likely to have undiagnosed chronic kidney disease. Hearing impairment may affect disclosure of important signs and symptoms as well as the comprehension of medical conversations for chronic disease management. General practitioners can play a critical role in improving medical communication by responding with sensitivity to the signs of hearing impairment in their patients.

Read the full abstract here