Purpose: The authors investigate the impact of hearing loss on quality of life in a large population of older adults.
Design and methods: Data are from the 5-year follow-up Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study, a population-based longitudinal study of age-related hearing impairment conducted in Beaver Dam, WI. Participants (N = 2,688) were 53-97 years old (mean = 69 years) and 42% were male. Difficulties with communication were assessed by using the Hearing Handicap for the Elderly-Screening version (HHIE-S), with additional questions regarding communication difficulties in specific situations. Health-related quality of life was assessed by using measures of activities of daily living (ADLs), instrumental ADLs (IADLs) and the Short Form 36 Health Survey (SF-36). Hearing loss measured by audiometry was categorized on the basis of the pure-tone average of hearing thresholds at 0.5, 1, 2, and 4 kHz.
Results: Of participants, 28% had a mild hearing loss and 24% had a moderate to severe hearing loss. Severity of hearing loss was significantly associated with having a hearing handicap and with self-reported communication difficulties. Individuals with moderate to severe hearing loss were more likely than individuals without hearing loss to have impaired ADLs and IADLs. Severity of hearing loss was significantly associated with decreased function in both the Mental Component Summary score and the Physical Component Summary score of the SF-36 as well as with six of the eight individual domain scores.
Implications: Severity of hearing loss is associated with reduced quality of life in older adults.