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Lubaina T. Arsiwala-Scheppach, Pradeep Y. Ramulu, A. Richey Sharrett, Vidyulata Kamath, Jennifer A. Deal, Xinxing Guo, Simo Du, Emmanuel E. Garcia Morales, Aleksandra Mihailovic, Honglei Chen, Alison G. Abraham; Associations among Visual, Auditory, and Olfactory Functions in Community-Based Older Adults: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. Trans. Vis. Sci. Tech. 2022;11(11):2. https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.11.11.2.
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Objective examination of relationships among visual, hearing, and olfactory function may yield mechanistic insights and inform our understanding of the burden of multiple-sensory impairments.
This cross-sectional study capitalized on continuous measures of visual acuity (VA), contrast sensitivity, pure tone audiometry, Quick Speech-in-Noise (QuickSIN), and Sniffin’ Sticks from a subset of ARIC participants at two community sites (EyeDOC Study, 2017–2019). Scales of all measures were aligned such that higher values indicated greater impairment. Intersensory bivariate associations were assessed graphically, and correlations assessed using Kendall's tau. Intersensory associations, independent of age, education, smoking, diabetes, and hypertension, were examined using linear regression. Analyses were stratified by community/race (Washington County/White vs Jackson/Black) and sex (men vs women) to explore community–sex heterogeneity.
We included 834 participants (mean age, 79 years); 39% were from Jackson and 63% females. We found weak intersensory correlations (tau generally ≤0.15). In the demographics-adjusted regression models, results were heterogeneous across communities and sex. Worse near VA, contrast sensitivity, and olfaction were associated with worse QuickSIN and worse near VA was associated with worse olfaction in some but not all community/race–sex groups (e.g., Jackson/Black women, 0.1 logMAR worse near VA was associated with 0.27 units increase in QuickSIN [95% confidence interval, 0.10–0.45]). Associations were modestly attenuated by adjustment for the shared risk factors of smoking, diabetes, and hypertension.
Visual dysfunction showed little or no association with hearing or olfaction impairments, suggesting a modest role for shared risk factors.
Visually impaired individuals have only a modestly higher risk of other sensory impairment.
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