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A Newly Identified Impairment in Both Vision and Hearing Increases the Risk of Deterioration in Both Communication and Cognitive Performance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 September 2021

Dawn M. Guthrie*
Department of Kinesiology & Physical Education, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario Department of Health Sciences, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario
Nicole Williams
Department of Kinesiology & Physical Education, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario
Jennifer Campos
Toronto Rehabilitation Institute – University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario
Paul Mick
Department of Surgery, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Joseph B. Orange
School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Western University, London, Ontario
M. Kathleen Pichora-Fuller
Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Mississauga, Ontario
Marie Y. Savundranayagam
School of Health Studies, Western University, London, Ontario
Walter Wittich
School of Optometry, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre of West-Central Montreal, Montreal, Quebec Institut Nazareth et Louis-Braille du Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de la Montérégie-Centre, Longueuil, Québec
Natalie A. Phillips
Department of Psychology/Centre for Research in Human Development, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec
Corresponding author: La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à : / Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to: Dawn M. Guthrie, Ph.D. Department of Kinesiology & Physical Education 75 University Ave. W. Wilfrid Laurier University Waterloo, OntarioCanada N2L 3C5 (


Vision and hearing impairments are highly prevalent in adults 65 years of age and older. There is a need to understand their association with multiple health-related outcomes. We analyzed data from the Resident Assessment Instrument for Home Care (RAI-HC). Home care clients were followed for up to 5 years and categorized into seven unique cohorts based on whether or not they developed new vision and/or hearing impairments. An absolute standardized difference (stdiff) of at least 0.2 was considered statistically meaningful. Most clients (at least 60%) were female and 34.9 per cent developed a new sensory impairment. Those with a new concurrent vison and hearing impairment were more likely than those with no sensory impairments to experience a deterioration in receptive communication (stdiff = 0.68) and in cognitive performance (stdiff = 0.49). After multivariate adjustment, they had a twofold increased odds (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 2.1; 95% confidence interval [CI]:1,87, 2.35) of deterioration in cognitive performance. Changes in sensory functioning are common and have important effects on multiple health-related outcomes.



Les déficiences visuelles et auditives présentent un fort taux de prévalence chez les personnes âgées. Il est nécessaire de comprendre comment ces déficiences sont associées avec plusieurs autres données liées à la santé. Nous avons analysé les résultats obtenus au test Resident Assessment Instrument for Home Care (RAI-HC). Les clients recevant des soins à domicile ont été suivis pendant une période allant jusqu’à cinq ans et ont été classés selon sept cohortes, en fonction de l’apparition ou non de nouvelles déficiences visuelles ou auditives. Une différence absolue standardisée (diffst) d’au moins 0,2 était considérée comme statistiquement significative. La plupart des clients (au moins 60 %) étaient des femmes et 34,9 % ont développé une nouvelle déficience sensorielle. Ceux qui ont développé une double déficience sensorielle (visuelle et auditive) étaient plus susceptibles de présenter une détérioration de la communication réceptive (diffst = 0,68) et de la performance cognitive (diffst = 0,49) que ceux qui n’avaient aucune déficience sensorielle. Le risque de détérioration des performances cognitives dans le cas des doubles déficiences sensorielles était deux fois plus élevé (RR ajusté = 2,1 ; IC 95 % : 1,87-2,35) suivant l’ajustement multivarié. Les altérations des fonctions sensorielles sont courantes et leurs effets sur de multiples indicateurs liés à la santé sont importants.

© Canadian Association on Gerontology 2021

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All authors contributed equally to this work.


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