Visual and Hearing Impairment Are Associated With Delirium in Hospitalized Patients: Results of a Multisite Prevalence Study

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2021 Jun;22(6):1162-1167.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2020.09.032. Epub 2020 Nov 4.


Objective: Sensory deficits are important risk factors for delirium but have been investigated in single-center studies and single clinical settings. This multicenter study aims to evaluate the association between hearing and visual impairment or bi-sensory impairment (visual and hearing impairment) and delirium.

Design: Cross-sectional study nested in the 2017 "Delirium Day" project.

Setting and participants: Patients 65 years and older admitted to acute hospital medical wards, emergency departments, rehabilitation wards, nursing homes, and hospices in Italy.

Methods: Delirium was assessed with the 4AT (a short tool for delirium assessment) and sensory deficits with a clinical evaluation. We assessed the association between delirium, hearing and visual impairment in multivariable logistic regression models, adjusting for: Model 1, we included predisposing factors for delirium (ie, dementia, weight loss and autonomy in the activities of daily living); Model 2, we added to Model 1 variables, which could be considered precipitating factors for delirium (ie, psychoactive drugs and urinary catheters).

Results: A total of 3038 patients were included; delirium prevalence was 25%. Patients with delirium had a higher prevalence of hearing impairment (30.5% vs 18%; P < .001), visual impairment (24.2% vs 15.7%; P < .01) and bi-sensory impairment (16.2% vs 7.5%) compared with those without delirium. In the multivariable logistic regression analysis, the presence of bi-sensory impairment was associated with delirium in Model 1 [odds ratio (OR) 1.5, confidence interval (CI) 1.2-2.1; P = .00] and in Model 2 (OR 1.4; CI 1.1-1.9; P = .02), whereas the presence of visual and hearing impairment alone was not associated with delirium either in Model 1 (OR 0.8; CI 0.6-1.2, P = .36; OR 1.1; CI 0.8-1.4; P = .42) or in Model 2 (OR 0.8, CI 0.6-1.2, P = .27; OR 1.1, CI 0.8-1.4, P = .63).

Conclusions and implications: Our findings support the importance of routine screening and specific interventions by a multidisciplinary team to implement optimal management of sensory impairments and hence prevention and the management of the patients with delirium.

Keywords: Hearing impairment; delirium; older; sensory deficits; visual impairment.