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OBJECTIVES: To determine whether hearing impairment, highly prevalent in older adults, is associated with activity levels.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional.

SETTING: National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (2005-06).

PARTICIPANTS: Individuals aged 70 and older who completed audiometric testing and whose physical activity was assessed subjectively using questionnaires and objectively using body-worn accelerometers (N = 706).

MEASUREMENTS: Hearing impairment was defined according to the speech-frequency (0.5-4 kHz) pure-tone average in the better-hearing ear (normal <25.0 dB, mild 25.0-39.9 dB, moderate or greater >=40 dB). Main outcome measures were self-reported leisure time physical activity and accelerometer-measured physical activity. Both were quantified using minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and categorized as inactive, insufficiently active, or sufficiently active. Ordinal logistic regression analyses were conducted and adjusted for demographic and cardiovascular risk factors.

RESULTS: Individuals with moderate or greater hearing impairment had greater odds than those with normal hearing of being in a lower category of physical activity as measured according to self-report (OR = 1.59, 95% CI = 1.11-2.28) and accelerometry (OR = 1.70, 95% CI = 0.99-2.91). Mild hearing impairment was not associated with level of physical activity.

CONCLUSION: Moderate or greater hearing impairment in older adults is associated with lower levels of physical activity independent of demographic and cardiovascular risk factors. Future research is needed to investigate the basis of this association and whether hearing rehabilitative interventions could affect physical activity in older adults.

(C) 2014 by the American Geriatrics Society