Hearing difficulty linked to adverse cognitive, physical functioning in seniors
Among older adults, self-reported hearing difficulty (SHD) is related to cognitive impairment, as mediated by social isolation, a study reports. SHD is also associated with physical disability.
The study used two waves of the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey data collected in 2011 and 2014, yielding a total of 16,786 observations from 10,777 participants aged ≥65 years. Cognitive impairment was assessed using the Chinese version of the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), while activities of daily living (ADL) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) served as indicators of physical functioning.
Of the 9,679 observations in 2011, 4,626 (47.8 percent) were of SHD, 2,765 (28.6 percent) were of cognitive impairment, and 2,584 (26.7 percent) were of ADL and 6,418 (66.3 percent) of IADL disability. The respective accounts of SHD, cognitive impairment, ADL disability, and IADL disability dropped to 42.7 percent (3,033/7,107), 25.1 percent (1,784/7,107), 24.4 percent (1,733/7,107), and 64.3 percent (4,568/7,107) in 2014.
Individuals with hearing difficulty were more likely to be female, illiterate and unmarried, to have cognitive impairment and ADL or IADL disability, and to experience social isolation. On a generalized structural equation modelling analysis, SHD was associated with an increased odds of cognitive impairment (odds ratio [OR], 2.93, 95 percent confidence intervals [CI], 2.61–3.30), ADL disability (OR, 2.10, 95 percent CI, 1.86–2.38), and IADL disability (OR, 2.39, 95 percent CI, 2.12–2.68).
Positive associations were observed between SHD and social isolation (OR, 1.23, 95 percent CI, 1.07–1.42), and between social isolation and cognitive impairment (OR, 2.09, 95 percent CI, 1.74–2.50). Indirect effects of SHD explained 12.3 percent of the variance in cognitive impairment via social isolation.
In view of the present data, the researchers urged placing significance on hearing healthcare to prevent the incidence of cognitive impairment and physical disability. “In addition, it is significantly vital to enhance social support to mitigate the negative impact of hearing difficulty on cognitive health in the elderly.”