05 August 2020

Hearing and vision problems have great impact on senior life

Early detection and timely management of vision and hearing problems are key factors in increasing quality of life for older adults.

People with both hearing and vision problems have the greatest reduction in health expectancy, as well as an overall lower life expectancy compared to people without these problems or with just one of the problems, according to a study from Singapore.

The study found that at ages 60, 70 and 80, people with either or both vision and hearing problems could expect more years of remaining life with limited physical function as well as with limitations in activities of daily living, compared to those without impairments.

Treat hearing and vision problems

In the study, the researchers conclude that “timely and appropriate management of vision and hearing impairment, especially when coexisting, among older adults has the potential to reduce the years of life they live with limitation in physical function and in activities of daily living”.

"Vision and hearing impairments are often perceived as an unfortunate but inconsequential part of ageing and in many cases remain undetected or untreated. This important study by our researchers shows that early detection and timely management of vision and hearing impairments by older adults, their families and health systems are key to increasing the quality of life for older adults," said Professor Patrick Casey, Senior Vice Dean for Research at Duke-NUS in Singapore, according to Science Daily.

Self-reported problems

In the study, the researchers asked the participants to rate their own vision and hearing abilities. To assess physical function, they asked participants to report whether they had trouble with tasks involving their arms and legs, such as walking 200-300 meters, climbing ten steps without resting or raising their hands above their heads. They also asked participants to report whether they had trouble completing basic activities of daily living (ADL), including bathing, dressing or eating or instrumental ADLs, such as doing housework, managing their medications or taking public transport.

The study consisted of three waves. 3,452 participants were interviewed in 2009 (wave 1) and followed up in 2011-2012 and 2015. 3,103 were re-interviewed in 2011- 12 (wave 2) and 1,572 were re-interviewed in in 2015 (wave 3).

Problems increase with age

Across the waves, 12-17% of older adults had reduced vision, 6-9% had hearing loss and 9-13% had both reduced vision and hearing loss. A substantial proportion, 34.6% from wave 1 to 2 and 42.7% from wave 2 to 3, experienced a change in both their vision and hearing status.

In 2009 (wave 1), 40.6% of those with hearing loss reported limitations in physical function and 20.8% reported limitations in activities of daily living. In 2011-12 (wave 2) these figures had risen to 52.2% and 26.6% and in 2015 (wave 3) to 60.4% and 29.4%.

For those with both vision and hearing problems, 65.5% reported limitations in physical function and 39.28% reported limitations in activities of daily living in 2009. In 2011-12 (wave 2), the figures were 64.3% and 43.7%. In 2015 (wave 3), the figures had risen to 78.7% and 50.6%.

Fewer years without limitations

The study found that older adults with both and hearing loss vision problems could expect to spend 62% of their remaining life with limitation to physical function, while the estimated figure for those with neither vision problems nor hearing loss was 38%. Older adults with both hearing and vision problems could expect to spend nearly one-third (31%) of their remaining life with limitations to activities of daily living, while those without these problems could expect to spend only 16% with limitations. Those with both hearing and vision problems also had the lowest life expectancy.

Study data

The study used data from three waves of a nationally representative longitudinal survey, Panel on Health and Ageing of Singaporean Elderly (PHASE).

The study, “The Impact of Self-Reported Vision and Hearing Impairment on Health Expectancy”, was published in The American Geriatric Society.

Sources: www.sciencedaily.com and The American Geriatric Society

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