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Vision and hearing deterioration connected

Australian researchers have claimed that there could be a link between visual impairment and deafness in older people.

Around 1,911 adults with an average age of 70 were examined as part of a University of Sydney study, with 178 (9.3 per cent) suffering from a visual impairment which categorised their vision as worse than 20/40.

A further 56 (2.9 per cent) had best-corrected visual impairment, which meant that even with glasses or contact lenses their vision was worse than 20/40.

Meanwhile, 766 of those involved in the study (40 per cent) were suffering from some form of hearing impediment.

Researchers found that hearing loss occurred in 116 (65.2 per cent) of those who were visually impaired.

They also discovered that for each additional line on an eye chart that a volunteer was unable to read, their odds of having hearing difficulties impairment increased by 18 per cent if they were visually impaired, or by 13 per cent if they had a best-corrected visual impairment.

The study, published in the Archives of Ophthalmology journal, stresses that the apparent link between hearing loss and visual impairments in old age could be due to the fact that both are regular consequences of ageing.

But Professor Chia Ee-Munn and colleagues at the University of Sydney warn that common risk factors, such as cigarette smoking, exposure to oxidative stress, a hardening of the arteries and diabetes, may all exacerbate sensory impairments.

"Further studies are needed to understand the relationship between visual and hearing impairments in older persons and to determine whether intervention to improve these impairments could delay biologic aging," their report concludes.

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