08 November 2019

Hearing loss is associated with social frailty

There is a higher prevalence of hearing loss among people who express social frailty, a study finds.

A Korean study has found a relationship between social frailty and hearing loss.  In the study, among those who reported non-social frailty, 8.5% had hearing loss. Among those reporting social pre-frailty, 10.6% had hearing loss and among those who reported social frailty, 23.9% had a hearing loss. On average, 11.6% of the participants in the study had a hearing loss.

The study concludes that older adults with moderate-to-severe hearing loss, as measured by an objective audiometric test, had a 2.13 times increased risk of being socially frail compared to individuals with normal hearing.

What is frailty?

Frailty is a state of increased vulnerability with age due to decreased functional reserves in multiple body systems. Hence increasing falls, dependence, disability and mortality.

Compared to non-social frailty, the odds ratio of social frailty in the study for those with hearing loss is 2.24 times higher after adjusting for factors such as age, economic status, smoking and depression and 2.17 times after further adjustments with physical frailty.

The prevalence of non-social frailty, social pre-frailty and social frailty among the participants was 27.6%, 60.7% and 11.7% respectively.

Pure-tone audiometry

Hearing was measured using pure-tone audiometry. Hearing loss was determined based on the average of hearing thresholds at 0.5, 1 and 2 kHz in the ear that had better hearing. Social frailty was defined based on the summation of 5 social components (questions).

The participants were from the Korean Frailty and Aging Cohort Study (KFACS) and were aged between 70–84 years old. The KFACS is a national Korean, multi-centre, cohort study initiated in 2016. 1,539 persons participated in the study.

The study, "Moderate hearing loss is related with social frailty in a community-dwelling older adults: The Korean Frailty and Aging Cohort Study (KFACS)", was published in Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics.

Sources: Archives of Gerontology and geriatrics and www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov