1. Rosenberg, Karen


According to this study:


* Community-dwelling older adults who had impaired hearing had poorer physical function, reduced walking endurance, and a faster decline in physical function than those who had normal hearing.


* Managing hearing impairment could delay the decline in physical function that is associated with aging.



Article Content

Hearing impairment is common in older adults, affecting an estimated two-thirds of those over age 70. Hearing impairment is also a risk factor for various adverse outcomes. Yet, there is limited data on the association between hearing impairment and objective measures of physical function and walking endurance. In a cohort study of community-dwelling older adults, researchers investigated whether hearing impairment is associated with poorer physical function, reduced walking endurance, and a faster decline in physical function.


The researchers used pure tone audiometry to measure hearing thresholds. To assess physical function, they used the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB), which includes three components (balance, gait speed, and chair stands) and on which a higher score indicates better function. A fast-paced two-minute walking test was used to assess walking endurance.


Of the 2,956 participants, 973 (33%) had normal hearing, 1,170 (40%) had mild hearing impairment, 692 (23%) had moderate impairment, and 121 (4%) had severe impairment. In this cross-sectional analysis, each 10-decibel hearing level increase was associated with lower scores on the SPPB and slower gait speed. In fully adjusted logistic regression models, hearing impairment was associated with greater odds of low physical function scores and a shorter distance walked. Longitudinal analysis showed that hearing impairment was associated with faster declines in SPPB scores over time.


The study had several limitations. Some physical function assessments preceded those of hearing. In addition, residual confounding by unmeasured variables was possible, and some participants were lost to follow-up. The researchers also note that the small number of participants with severe hearing impairment could have reduced the statistical power to detect differences in physical functioning among participants who had normal hearing and severe impairment.


Martinez-Amezcua P, et al JAMA Netw Open 2021;4(6):e2113742.