BACKGROUND: We aimed to investigate predictors of change in pure-tone hearing thresholds in older adults.
METHODS: Data were drawn from a pooled sample from the Dynamic Analyses to Optimise Ageing (DYNOPTA) project (N = 4,221, mean age = 73.6, range: 50-103 years). Pure-tone hearing thresholds were tested for frequencies between 0.5 and 8 kHz, on up to four occasions over a period of 11 years. Linear mixed models tested for predictors of change in hearing.
RESULTS: Hearing loss for high-range frequencies preceded decline in low-range frequencies. Men had higher baseline hearing thresholds, but women experienced faster rates of decline in hearing for mid- to high-range frequencies. The estimated rate of change for a 75-year-old adult was 0.91 decibel hearing level (dB HL) per year for pure-tone thresholds averaged over frequencies ranging between 0.5 and 4 kHz in the better ear. Baseline age (β = 0.03, p < .01), hypertension (β = 0.15, p < .01), and probable cognitive impairment (β = 0.40, p = .01) were independent predictors of annual rate of change in hearing thresholds. Incidence of probable cognitive impairment was also associated with higher hearing thresholds. Other known correlates for prevalence of hearing impairment, including low education, noise damage, diabetes, and history of stroke were independently associated with baseline levels of hearing but were not predictive of change in hearing thresholds.
CONCLUSIONS: Faster rates of decline in hearing are predicted by probable cognitive impairment and hypertension.
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