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OP67 Hearing impairment and incident frailty in older English community-dwelling men and women: a 4-year follow-up study
  1. AEM Liljas1,
  2. LA Carvalho2,
  3. E Papachristou1,
  4. SE Ramsay1,
  5. SG Wannamethee1,
  6. C De Oliveira2,
  7. K Walters1
  1. 1Primary Care and Population Health, University College London, London, UK
  2. 2Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK

Abstract

Background Hearing impairment is common in later life and associated with morbidity. However few population-based studies have investigated the impact of hearing impairment on frailty in older adults. We examined the association between hearing impairment and the risk of incident frailty over 4 years.

Methods 2836 community-dwelling adults aged ≥60 years from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing were followed up from 2004 (baseline) to 2008. Hearing impairment was defined as reporting poor self-experienced hearing. Frailty was defined using the Fried Phenotype based on self-reported questionnaires and nurse assessments. A score of 0 out of 5 frailty components (slow walking gait speed, grip strength, self-reported exhaustion, weight loss and low physical activity) was defined as having no prevalent frailty, 1–2 pre-frailty and ≥3 was defined as being frail. Participants without prevalent frailty at baseline were followed up for pre-frailty and frailty, and participants who were pre-frail at baseline were followed up for subsequent frailty.

Results At follow-up, there were 367 new cases of pre-frailty and frailty among those without prevalent frailty at baseline (n = 1396), and 133 new cases of frailty among those who were pre-frail at baseline (n = 1178). Compared to participants with no prevalent frailty at baseline who reported good hearing, participants with no prevalent frailty who reported poor hearing had an increased risk of becoming pre-frail at follow-up (age- and sex-adjusted OR 1.43, 95% CI 1.05–1.95). However the association was attenuated after further adjustment for wealth and education. Compared to pre-frail participants with good hearing, pre-frail participants with poor hearing were associated with an increased risk of becoming frail at follow-up (age- and sex-adjusted OR 1.64, 95% CI 1.07–2.51) and the association remained after further adjustment for wealth, education, CVD, cognitive function and depression.

Conclusion Older adults with pre-frailty who experience poor hearing have an increased risk of becoming frail over 4 years. In contrast, those with no prevalent frailty who experienced poor hearing did not have an increased risk of becoming pre-frail or frail. This suggests that hearing impairment in older adults may be a particular problem in those who are starting to experience other health and functional concerns. Identifying and actively managing hearing impairment in pre-frail older adults may have potential to delay the development of frailty. Further research is warranted on the possible mechanisms of frailty in hearing impaired older adults.

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