To assess associations between age-related vision and hearing impairments and whether combined sensory losses magnify effects on health-related quality of life.
Seventy-five percent of survivors (n = 2334) were reexamined at Blue Mountains Eye Study 5-year examinations and 86.3% (2015) attended hearing assessments. 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 (500-4000 Hz, better ear).
Persons with visual impairment, compared with those without visual impairment, had lower mean audiometric thresholds across all frequencies (P≤.05). For each 1-line (5-letter) reduction in best-corrected visual acuity and presenting visual acuity, hearing loss prevalence increased by 18% and 13%, respectively. Cataract and age-related maculopathy were also associated with hearing loss (respectively, multivariate-adjusted odds ratio, 1.3 and 1.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.0-1.7 and 1.1-3.1). The association between age-related maculopathy and hearing loss was stronger at younger ages (<70 years). Combined impairments were associated with poorer health-related quality of life than were single impairments (multivariate-adjusted 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey mean physical and mental component scores; Ptrend = .001 and <.001, respectively).
Older persons with visual impairment were also more likely to have hearing loss in this study, which suggests that these sensory impairments could share common risk factors or biologic aging markers. Combined sensory impairments also cumulatively affect health-related quality of life.