Association between hearing loss and frailty: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number333
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - May 2021


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