Send to

Choose Destination
J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2019 May 16;74(6):890-896. doi: 10.1093/gerona/gly264.

Multiple Sensory Impairment Is Associated With Increased Risk of Dementia Among Black and White Older Adults.

Brenowitz WD1, Kaup AR2,3, Lin FR4,5,6, Yaffe K1,2,3,7.

Author information

Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco.
San Francisco VA Health Care System, California.
Department of Psychiatry, Weill Institute for Neurosciences, University of California, San Francisco.
Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.
Department of Epidemiology.
Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland.
Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco.



Few studies have examined impairment in multiple senses (multisensory impairment) and risk of dementia in comparison to having a single or no sensory impairment.


We studied 1,810 black and white nondemented participants from Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study aged 70-79 years at enrollment. Sensory impairment was determined at our study baseline (Year 3-5 of Health ABC) using established cut points for vision (Bailey-Lovie visual acuity and Pelli-Robson contrast sensitivity test), hearing (audiometric testing), smell (12-item Cross-Cultural Smell Identification Test), and touch (peripheral nerve function tests). Incident dementia over 10 years of follow-up was based on hospitalization records, dementia medications, or at least 1.5 SD decline in Modified Mini-Mental State Examination score (race-specific). Cox proportional hazard models with adjustment for demographics, health behaviors, and health conditions evaluated the relationship between risk of dementia and increasing number of sensory impairments.


Sensory impairments were common: 28% had visual impairment, 35% had hearing loss, 22% had poor smell, 12% had touch insensitivity; 26% had more than two impairments, and 5.6% had more than three sensory impairments. Number of impairments was associated with risk of dementia in a graded fashion (p < .001). Compared to no sensory impairments, the adjusted hazard ratio was 1.49 (95% CI: 1.12, 1.98) for one sensory impairment, 1.91 (95% CI: 1.39, 2.63) for two sensory impairments, and 2.85 (95% CI: 1.88, 4.30) for more than three sensory impairments.


Multisensory impairment was strongly associated with increased risk of dementia. Although, the nature of this relationship needs further investigation, sensory function assessment in multiple domains may help identify patients at high risk of dementia.


Cognitive Aging; Dementia; Epidemiology; Sensory impairment

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Silverchair Information Systems Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center