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Having Visual, Hearing Impairments Linked to Dementia in Elderly

THURSDAY, April 8, 2021 -- Coexisting visual and hearing impairments are associated with increased prevalence and incidence of dementia among older adults, according to a study published online April 7 in Neurology.

Gihwan Byeon, M.D., from the Kangwon National University Hospital in Chuncheon, South Korea, and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort study involving 6,520 elderly individuals (58 to 101 years) representing the general population. Visual and auditory sensory impairment were defined via self-report questionnaire. Over six years, demographic and clinical variables, including cognitive outcomes, were assessed every two years.

Of the participants, 932 had normal sensory function, 2,957 had single sensory impairment (SSI: visual or auditory), and 2,631 had dual sensory impairment (DSI). The researchers found that compared with normal sensory function, at baseline, DSI was significantly associated with increased dementia prevalence (odds ratio, 2.17; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.17 to 4.02), but SSI was not (odds ratio, 1.27; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.66 to 2.41). The incidence of dementia was significantly higher in the DSI group than in the normal sensory function group during the six-year follow-up (hazard ratio, 1.9; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.04 to 3.46), and there was a significant decrease noted in neuropsychological scores (ß = −0.87; 95 percent confidence interval, −1.17 to −0.58).

"Depending on the degree of hearing or vision loss, losing function in your senses can be distressing and have an impact on your daily life," a coauthor said in a statement. "But our study results suggest losing both may be of particular concern."

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