PURPOSE To evaluate the independent impact of vision, hearing, and olfactory impairment on quality of life.
METHODS Subjects (n = 1854, mean age = 67 years) were participants in the 1998-2000 and 2003-05 examinations of the Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study and Beaver Dam Eye Study, population-based, prospective studies set in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Sensory capacities were measured in 1998-2000 and quality of life was measured in 2003-05. Vision impairment was assessed using current binocular visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. Hearing impairment was defined by the pure tone threshold average and word recognition scores in competing message and olfaction was measured with the San Diego Odor Identification Test. The Short Form 36 Health Survey (SF-36) was used to assess quality of life.
RESULTS Significant independent effects of vision impairment and hearing impairment on the SF-36 social functioning domain score were observed (P < 0.01). The adjusted mean social functioning score for participants with vision and hearing impairment was 5.9 units lower than the mean score in participants with no vision and hearing impairment. A significant independent effect of vision impairment was also observed for the physical functioning and mental health domains (P < 0.01). Olfaction impairment was not significantly associated with the SF-36 indices.
CONCLUSIONS Impairments in vision and hearing demonstrated independent effects on quality of life. The impact was observed for physical and emotional health (vision) and social functioning (vision and hearing). Evaluation and rehabilitation of sensory deficits may contribute to an improvement in functioning and well-being in the later years of life.