Journal Article

Hearing loss impacts on the use of community and informal supports

Julie Schneider, Bamini Gopinath, Michael J. Karpa, Catherine M. McMahon, Elena Rochtchina, Stephen R. Leeder and Paul Mitchell

in Age and Ageing

Published on behalf of British Geriatrics Society

Volume 39, issue 4, pages 458-464
Published in print July 2010 | ISSN: 0002-0729
Published online June 2010 | e-ISSN: 1468-2834 | DOI:
Hearing loss impacts on the use of community and informal supports

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Objective: the aim of this study is to estimate the cross-sectional and longitudinal impact of hearing loss on use of community support services and reliance on non-spouse family/friends among older people.

Methods: Blue Mountains Hearing Study participants (n = 2,956) were assessed for hearing impairment by audiologists in sound-treated booths. Participants were classified as hearing impaired if PTA0.5–4kHz >25 dB HL. Use of services and non-spouse family/friend support was assessed cross-sectionally. Incident use was assessed among survivors at the 5-year follow-up (n = 1,457).

Results: a significant cross-sectional association between hearing loss (>25 dB HL) and use of community support services was observed after adjusting for age, sex, living status, self-rated poor health, self-reported hospital admissions, disability in walking and best-corrected visual impairment [odds ratio (OR) 2.12, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.15–3.90]. Participants with hearing loss who never used a hearing aid were twice as likely to use formal supports as participants without hearing loss (multivariate-adjusted OR 2.25, 95% CI 1.19–4.24). Hearing loss increased the incident need for non-spouse family/friend support or community services (multivariate-adjusted OR 1.49, 95% CI 1.02–2.18).

Conclusions: after adjusting for confounding factors, hearing impairment negatively impacted on the independence of older persons by increasing reliance on community or family support.

Keywords: hearing loss; community services; informal support; Blue Mountains Eye Study; Blue Mountains Hearing Study; elderly

Journal Article.  4554 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Geriatric Medicine

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