JOURNAL ARTICLE

Self-reported hearing difficulties and changes in life-space mobility among community-dwelling older adults: a Two-year follow-Up study

Hannele Polku, Tuija M Mikkola, Merja Rantakokko, Erja Portegijs, Timo Törmäkangas, Taina Rantanen, Anne Viljanen
BMC Geriatrics 2015, 15: 121
26459630

BACKGROUND: Life-space mobility reflects individuals' actual mobility and engagement with society. Difficulty in hearing is common among older adults and can complicate participation in everyday activities, thus restricting life-space mobility. The aim of this study was to examine whether self-reported hearing predicts changes in life-space mobility among older adults.

METHODS: We conducted a prospective cohort study of community-dwelling older adults aged 75-90 years (n = 848). At-home face-to-face interviews at baseline and telephone follow-up were used. Participants responded to standardized questions on perceived hearing at baseline. Life-space mobility (the University of Alabama at Birmingham Life-Space Assessment, LSA, range 0-120) was assessed at baseline and one and two years thereafter. Generalized estimating equations were used to analyze the effect of hearing difficulties on changes in LSA scores.

RESULTS: At baseline, participants with major hearing difficulties had a significantly lower life-space mobility score than those without hearing difficulties (mean 54, 95 % CI 50-58 vs. 57, 95 % CI 53-61, p = .040). Over the 2-year follow-up, the life-space mobility score declined in all hearing categories in a similar rate (main effect of time p < .001, group x time p = .164). Participants with mild or major hearing difficulties at baseline had significantly higher odds for restricted life-space (LSA score < 60) at two years (OR 1.8, 95 % CI 1.0-3.2 and 2.0, 95 % CI 1.0-3.9, respectively) compared to those without hearing difficulties. The analyses were adjusted for chronic conditions, age, sex and cognitive functioning.

CONCLUSIONS: People with major hearing difficulties had lower life-space mobility scores at baseline but did not exhibit accelerated decline over the follow-up compared to those without hearing difficulties. Life-space mobility describes older people's possibilities for participating in out-of-home activities and access to community amenities, which are important building blocks of quality of life in old age. Early recognition of hearing difficulties may help prevent life-space restriction.

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