By Doug Hanson
Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions in the United States, and one new study found that even minor hearing loss can have an impact on mental health.
Researchers found that women with hearing loss were more likely to report feelings of depression than men with hearing loss.
The study showed a strong association between hearing impairment and depression except among those who reported being deaf.
This research team noted that the use of hearing aids was linked to a lower rate of depression among participants with hearing loss.
This study was led by Chuan-Ming Li, MD, PhD, of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in Bethesda, Maryland.
The researchers looked at data on adults over the age of 18 who had taken part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Participants self-reported on depression and hearing impairment, except for participants over the age of 70 who received hearing tests.
This research team found that the percentage of people who reported being depressed increased as hearing impairment rose, except among the participants who reported being deaf.
The data showed that severe depression was reported by 4.9 percent of participants with excellent hearing, 7.1 percent with good hearing and 11.4 percent of those who reported a little trouble hearing or greater hearing impairment.
The researchers noted that there was no association between depression and self-reported hearing impairment among male participants over the age of 70. However, they found a significant association between moderate hearing impairment — a loss of 35 to 50 decibels — and depression in older women.
The research revealed that 14.7 percent of women with hearing impairment of any level reported depression, compared with 9 percent of men with hearing impairment.
The data also showed that the rate of depression was higher among those who used a hearing aid than among those who did not use a hearing aid. A total of 9.1 percent of those wearing hearing aids reported feelings of depression, compared with 11.7 percent of those who did not report using a hearing aid.
Deaf participants in this study reported the lowest level of depression of any group, with only 0.06 percent reporting feelings of depression.
The authors of this study believe that health professionals may be able to provide better care by recognizing that a strong association may exist between hearing impairment and depression among adults of all ages and especially among women.
These authors wrote that their study was limited by the lack of measured hearing tests in participants younger than 70 years of age, who self-reported their hearing loss.
This study was published March 6 in JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey hearing questionnaire and examination component was supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and the National Center for Health Statistics.
The authors reported no disclosures.