Background: Hearing impairment is a prevalent and chronic condition in older people. This study investigated the relationship between cognitive function and hearing impairment in a Japanese population.
Methods: A pure-tone average (0.5-2.0 kHz) was used to evaluate hearing impairment in 846 participants of the Iwaki Health Promotion Project who were aged at least 50 years old (310 men and 536 women). We also administered the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), the Center for Epidemiologic Studies for Depression (CES-D) scale, Starkstein's apathy scale (AS) and the Short Form Health Survey Version 2 (SF-36v2). A multiple linear regression analysis assessed the association between hearing impairment and mental correlates.
Results: The overall prevalence of hearing impairment in this study population was 37.7%. The participants with hearing impairment were older and less educated compared to those with no hearing problems. We observed significant differences in the MMSE and AS scores between the mild/moderate to severe groups versus the non-impaired group. After adjusting for age, gender and amount of education, hearing impairment was significantly associated with MMSE and AS scores, but not with CES-D scores. Hearing impairment was significantly related to the social functioning (SF) and role emotional (RE) scores of the SF-36v2.
Conclusions: Hearing impairment is common among older people and is associated with cognitive impairment, apathy and a poor health-related quality of life. Screening for and correcting hearing impairments might improve the quality of life and functional status of older patients.