Sensory decline affects majority of seniors

By: Emily Lunardo | Health News | Tuesday, February 23, 2016 - 10:00 AM

Sensory decline affects majority of seniorsSensory decline affects majority of seniors, and a new study has found that nearly all U.S. seniors have a decline in at least one of their five main senses. The researchers looked at nearly 3,000 people aged 57 to 85. They found that 94 percent of the participants had a decline in at least one of their senses – hearing, sight, taste, touch, or smell.

Nearly 40 percent had a decline in two senses, and 28 percent had a problem with three or more of their senses.

Study author Jayant Pinto said, “We know that sensory impairment is common and is often a harbinger of serious health problems, such as cognitive [mental] decline or falls, as well as more subtle ones like burns, caused by loss of touch sensitivity, food poisoning that goes undetected because of loss of smell and taste, and smoke inhalation, from loss of smell.”

“Our findings here give us a better appreciation of the prevalence of multi-sensory loss, a first step toward learning more about what causes the senses to decline,” Pinto added.

Taste was found to be the most common lost sense with nearly three-quarters of participants experiencing a decline. Touch was another common deteriorating sense as only 38 percent of participants had a fair sense of touch.

A decline in more than one sense was largely associated with older age, gender, and race. Men were more likely to have a decline in hearing, smell, and taste, but had a better vision than women. Blacks had poorer senses overall except for hearing. Lastly, Hispanics had worsened vision, touch, and smell, but taste was maintained.

Pinto concluded, “We need to understand the biology behind the links between age and sensory loss, and design better ways to prevent its decline. People caring for older adults — including family members, caregivers and physicians — should pay close attention to impairments in vision, hearing, and smell.”


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