No AccessJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing ResearchResearch Article17 Feb 2021

The Combined Burden of Hearing Loss and Cognitive Impairment in a Group Care Setting for Older Adults

    Purpose

    The purpose of the current study is to better characterize the medical and social health characteristics of older adults in a long-term group care setting and consider the impact of the dual burden of hearing loss and cognitive impairment.

    Method

    This descriptive analysis of a convenience sample of 160 adults (Mage = 74 years, age range: 59.8–99.7) participating in Program for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly programs in Massachusetts and Rhode Island included data from hearing testing, questionnaires, and medical chart review. Using descriptive statistics, groups are compared across a range of demographic and health variables on the categorical bases of hearing loss and cognitive status.

    Results

    Results suggest that hearing loss and cognitive impairment are highly prevalent among this sample of older adults. Forty-three percent of this sample has at least a mild hearing loss in the better hearing ear in addition to cognitive impairment. Descriptive analyses across demographic and health variables suggest there are few differences between those with and without cognitive impairment when compared within degree of hearing loss categories in this convenience sample. Across all participants, there was a high prevalence of other chronic conditions, most notably diabetes (59%), hypertension (90%), cardiovascular disease (80%), and depression (67%).

    Conclusions

    In this sample, there were not significant differences on demographic and health variables between the cognitive impairment groups when considered within their degree of hearing loss; however, the prevalence of the dual burden of hearing loss and cognitive impairment in this sample is high. Clinicians serving older adults, especially those accessing group care services, should be cognizant of the high burden of multiple chronic conditions and plan care that can be integrated into a comprehensive approach.

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