Background: Frailty is associated with poor health outcomes in later life. Recent studies suggested that hearing loss may be a potentially modifiable risk factor associated with frailty. Methods: This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to investigate the association between hearing loss and frailty in observational studies of adults aged 50 years or over. We included observational studies with participants ≥ 50 years old that have clear descriptions of hearing and frailty measurement methods. Meta-analyses were conducted using measurement of risk and 95 % confidence interval of each individual study. Quality assessment, risk of bias, heterogeneity and sensitivity analyses were also conducted. Our study followed PRISMA guidelines. Results: Our search identified 4508 manuscripts published in English between 1 and 2000 and 9 February 2021. Sixteen articles reported acceptable measurements of both hearing loss and frailty. Two papers were not suitable for meta-analysis. Twelve sets of cross-sectional data involving 12,313 participants, and three sets of longitudinal data involving 3042 participants were used in the meta-analysis. Hearing loss was associated with an 87 % increase in the risk of frailty among cross-sectional studies (risk ratio [RR] 1.87; 95 %CI 1.63–2.13) and 56 % among longitudinal studies (RR 1.56; 95 %CI 1.29–1.88). There was considerable heterogeneity among studies, but their quality rating, sample size or approach used to assess hearing loss did not change the results substantially. Conclusions: The findings of this systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies suggest that hearing loss increases the risk of frailty in later life. Whether this relationship is causal remains to be determined.
|Publication status||E-pub ahead of print - May 2021|