Otolaryngic sensory loss as a measure of frailty among older US adults

Nanki Hura, Isaac A. Bernstein, Leila J. Mady, Yuri Agrawal, Andrew P. Lane, Nicholas R. Rowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Frailty is a syndrome characterized by reduced physiologic reserve and increased vulnerability to poor health outcomes. Disruption of sensorineural function appears to serve as a novel biomarker of frailty. Using population-level data, we sought to characterize the association between otolaryngic sensory dysfunction and frailty. Methods: A cross-sectional analysis of the 2011-2012 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey was performed on adults ≥40 years of age (n = 2138). Participants were grouped by subjective gustatory dysfunction (sGD), olfactory dysfunction (sOD), hearing loss (sHL), and measured hearing loss (mHL) with pure tone averages (PTAs). Frailty was operationalized using a continuous 36-item frailty index (FI) scored from 0 to 1, stratified in 4 categories (“non-frail,” “vulnerable,” “frail,” or “most frail”). Results: All sensory loss groups had significantly higher FI scores than those without sensory loss (sGD = 0.15; sOD = 0.14; sHL = 0.15; low-frequency mHL = 0.16; high-frequency mHL = 0.14 vs control = 0.11; p < 0.007 for all). “Vulnerable” individuals had increased odds of sOD (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.45; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.05-2.00), whereas “frail” individuals had increased odds of sOD (aOR, 1.85; 95% CI, 1.26-2.71) and low-frequency mHL (aOR, 4.01; 95% CI, 1.27-12.63). The “most frail” individuals had increased odds of sHL (aOR, 11.72; 95% CI, 2.88-47.66) and high-frequency mHL (aOR 5.10; 95% CI, 1.72-15.12). PTAs were linearly associated with FI (low: β = 10.15; 95% CI, 1.78-18.51; high: β = 19.85; 95% CI, 5.19-34.53). Conclusion: Otolaryngic sensory loss is associated with increased frailty. Independent association of frailty with measures of olfaction and hearing suggests that olfactory and hearing assessments may help identify at-risk individuals with modifiable risk factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)771-779
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Forum of Allergy and Rhinology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • frailty
  • hearing loss
  • nutrition surveys
  • olfaction disorders
  • smell
  • taste

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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