Dual sensory impairment in older adults increases the risk of mortality: a population-based study

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e55054. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055054. Epub 2013 Mar 4.


Although concurrent vision and hearing loss are common in older adults, population-based data on their relationship with mortality is limited. This cohort study investigated the association between objectively measured dual sensory impairment (DSI) with mortality risk over 10 years. 2812 Blue Mountains Eye Study participants aged 55 years and older at baseline were included for analyses. Visual impairment was defined as visual acuity less than 20/40 (better eye), and hearing impairment as average pure-tone air conduction threshold greater than 25 dB HL (500-4000 Hz, better ear). Ten-year all-cause mortality was confirmed using the Australian National Death Index. After ten years, 64% and 11% of participants with DSI and no sensory loss, respectively, had died. After multivariable adjustment, participants with DSI (presenting visual impairment and hearing impairment) compared to those with no sensory impairment at baseline, had 62% increased risk of all-cause mortality, hazard ratio, HR, 1.62 (95% confidence intervals, CI, 1.16-2.26). This association was more marked in those with both moderate-severe hearing loss (>40 dB HL) and presenting visual impairment, HR 1.84 (95% CI 1.19-2.86). Participants with either presenting visual impairment only or hearing impairment only, did not have an increased risk of mortality, HR 1.05 (95% CI 0.61-1.80) and HR 1.24 (95% CI 0.99-1.54), respectively. Concurrent best-corrected visual impairment and moderate-severe hearing loss was more strongly associated with mortality 10 years later, HR 2.19 (95% CI 1.20-4.03). Objectively measured DSI was an independent predictor of total mortality in older adults. DSI was associated with a risk of death greater than that of either vision loss only or hearing loss alone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Blindness / mortality*
  • Blindness / physiopathology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Deafness / mortality*
  • Deafness / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Analysis
  • Visual Acuity / physiology

Grant support

The Blue Mountains Eye and Hearing Study were supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (Grant Nos. 974159, 991407, 211069, 262120). The authors also acknowledge the financial support of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnerships for Better Health (grant no. 571449) and the HEARing CRC, established and supported under the Australian Government's Cooperative Research Centres Program. Bamini Gopinath is supported by an NHMRC Centre for Clinical Research Excellence (grant no 529923). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.