Association of Hearing Impairment with Incident Frailty and Falls in Older Adults

Rebecca J. Kamil, Joshua Betz, Becky Brott Powers, Sheila Pratt, Stephen Kritchevsky, Hilsa N. Ayonayon, Tammy B. Harris, Elizabeth Helzner, Jennifer A. Deal, Kathryn Martin, Matthew Peterson, Suzanne Satterfield, Eleanor M. Simonsick, Frank R. Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


Objective: We aimed to determine whether hearing impairment (HI) in older adults is associated with the development of frailty and falls. Method: Longitudinal analysis of observational data from the Health, Aging and Body Composition study of 2,000 participants aged 70 to 79 was conducted. Hearing was defined by the pure-tone-average of hearing thresholds at 0.5, 1, 2, and 4 kHz in the better hearing ear. Frailty was defined as a gait speed of <0.60 m/s and/or inability to rise from a chair without using arms. Falls were assessed annually by self-report. Results: Older adults with moderate-or-greater HI had a 63% increased risk of developing frailty (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] = 1.63, 95% confidence interval [CI] = [1.26, 2.12]) compared with normal-hearing individuals. Moderate-or-greater HI was significantly associated with a greater annual percent increase in odds of falling over time (9.7%, 95% CI = [7.0, 12.4] compared with normal hearing, 4.4%, 95% CI = [2.6, 6.2]). Discussion: HI is independently associated with the risk of frailty in older adults and with greater odds of falling over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)644-660
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Aging and Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Health ABC
  • falls
  • frailty
  • hearing impairment
  • older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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