Oxford University Press (OUP), Age and Ageing, 5(45), p. 661-666
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: hearing impairment is common in older adults and has been implicated in the risk of disability and mortality. We examined the association between hearing impairment and risk of incident disability and all-cause mortality. DESIGN AND SETTING: prospective cohort of community-dwelling older men aged 63-85 followed up for disability over 2 years and for all-cause mortality for 10 years in the British Regional Heart Study. METHODS: data were collected on self-reported hearing impairment including hearing aid use, and disability assessed as mobility limitations (problems walking/taking stairs), difficulties with activities of daily living (ADL) and instrumental ADL (IADL). Mortality data were obtained from the National Health Service register. RESULTS: among 3,981 men, 1,074 (27%) reported hearing impairment. Compared with men with no hearing impairment, men who could hear and used a hearing aid, and men who could not hear despite a hearing aid had increased risks of IADL difficulties (age-adjusted OR 1.86, 95% CI 1.29-2.70; OR 2.74, 95% CI 1.53-4.93, respectively). The associations remained after further adjustment for covariates including social class, lifestyle factors, co-morbidities and social engagement. Associations of hearing impairment with incident mobility limitations, incident ADL difficulties and all-cause mortality were attenuated on adjustment for covariates. CONCLUSION: this study suggests that hearing problems in later life could increase the risk of having difficulties performing IADLs, which include more complex everyday tasks such as shopping and light housework. However, further studies are needed to determine the associations observed including the underlying pathways.