Seniors’ Hearing Trouble Linked to Greater Risk of Death
Older adults with hearing impairment may have a higher risk of dying than people with normal hearing, a recent study suggests. The reasons for the connection are not clear, researchers say, but the results point to hearing impairment at least as a sign of, and possibly a contributor to an older person’s survival odds. “In the simplest terms, the worse the patient’s hearing loss, the greater the risk of death,” lead author Kevin Contrera said of the study’s findings. Past research has linked hearing problems to a variety of negative health effects, but few studies have looked directly at mortality risk, Contrera and his colleagues write in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Two thirds of adults over 70 experience hearing impairment, said Contrera, a medical student at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. He and his colleagues looked at data on 1,666 adults from a nationally representative survey conducted in 2005-2006 and 2009-2010, as well as death records through the end of 2011.
The people included in the analysis were all over age 70 and had undergone hearing testing. Using World Health Organization criteria to define hearing impairment, and accounting for individuals’ age, the researchers found that people with moderate or severe hearing impairment had a 54 percent greater risk of dying than those with normal hearing. Mild hearing impairment was linked to a 27 percent increased risk. The study team found that people with moderately or severely impaired hearing had a 39 percent higher risk of death than those without hearing problems, and those with mild hearing impairment had a 21 percent greater risk.