Objective: Data on ethnic differences in the relationship between hearing loss and frailty are sparse. We investigated the relationship between self-reported hearing loss and frailty in four ethnic groups.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional study of a community-dwelling sample of African American, Afro-Caribbean, Hispanic, and European American individuals aged 60 years or older (n = 484). Participants had to be able to ambulate independently or with the help of a device, and had an age- and education-adjusted Mini-Mental State Examination score of > 23 to be enrolled. Self-reported hearing loss was measured by a single question: ‘Is your hearing excellent, very good, good, fair or poor?’. Answers of excellent, very good and good were considered as ‘no hearing loss’, and answers of fair and poor as ‘self-reported hearing loss’. Frailty was defined as reporting three or more of the following criteria: weight loss, weakness, exhaustion, slow walking speed, and low physical activity.
Results: In unadjusted (odds ratio: 3.075; 95% confidence interval: 1.149, 8.233; p = 0.025) and adjusted (odds ratio: 7.509; 95% confidence interval: 1.797, 31.386; p = 0.006) models, self-reported hearing loss was associated with frailty in Afro-Caribbeans, but not in African Americans, Hispanics and European Americans. Out of the five frailty criteria, only exhaustion was significantly more common in the self-reported hearing loss group among Afro-Caribbeans.
Conclusion: Self-reported hearing loss was associated with frailty among Afro-Caribbeans, and this association was largely due to the frailty criterion of exhaustion.