Association of hearing impairment with incident frailty and falls in older adults

Rebecca J Kamil, Joshua Betz, Becky Brott Powers, Sheila Pratt, Stephen Kritchevsky, Hilsa N Ayonayon, Tammy B Harris, Elizabeth Helzner, Jennifer A Deal, Kathryn Martin, Matthew Peterson, Suzanne Satterfield, Eleanor M Simonsick, Frank R Lin, Health ABC study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: We aimed to determine whether hearing impairment (HI) in older adults is associated with the development of frailty and falls.

METHOD: Longitudinal analysis of observational data from the Health, Aging and Body Composition study of 2,000 participants aged 70 to 79 was conducted. Hearing was defined by the pure-tone-average of hearing thresholds at 0.5, 1, 2, and 4 kHz in the better hearing ear. Frailty was defined as a gait speed of <0.60 m/s and/or inability to rise from a chair without using arms. Falls were assessed annually by self-report.

RESULTS: Older adults with moderate-or-greater HI had a 63% increased risk of developing frailty (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] = 1.63, 95% confidence interval [CI] = [1.26, 2.12]) compared with normal-hearing individuals. Moderate-or-greater HI was significantly associated with a greater annual percent increase in odds of falling over time (9.7%, 95% CI = [7.0, 12.4] compared with normal hearing, 4.4%, 95% CI = [2.6, 6.2]).

DISCUSSION: HI is independently associated with the risk of frailty in older adults and with greater odds of falling over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)644-660
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Aging and Health
Issue number4
Early online date5 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2015.
Funding: The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was supported by National
Institute on Aging (NIA) Contracts N01-AG-6-2101, N01-AG-6-2103,
N01-AG-6-2106; NIA Grant R01-AG028050; and NINR Grant R01-NR012459. This research was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, National Institute on Aging. Frank Lin is supported by the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders K23DC011279 Grant, Triological Society and American College of Surgeons Clinician Scientist Award, and Eleanor Schwartz Charitable Foundation. Rebecca Kamil’s coursework at Bloomberg School of Public Health is supported by the Oticon Foundation. Sheila Pratt and Becky Brott Powers were supported by the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center in the Veterans Administration Pittsburgh Healthcare System during the development of this article.


  • hearing impairment
  • frailty
  • falls
  • older adults
  • Health ABC


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