Hearing loss is associated with a long term increase in risk for depression and symptoms of depression, according to a study published in Aging and Mental Health. Nearly a third of adults over age 65 years are affected by hearing loss, which has been linked to a range of medical conditions, including anxiety and depression.

The study included a total of 8344 community-dwelling adults (median age, 73.7 years) who enrolled in the Three-City prospective multicenter cohort study. Linear mixed models were used to explore the association between self-reported hearing loss at baseline and depression dimension symptoms over a 12 year period. Depression dimensions, assessed with a 4-factor structure of the 20-item Center for Epidemiology Studies-Depression (CESD) scale, included depressed affect, positive affect, somatic symptoms, and interpersonal problems.

In the study, depressed affect comprised feelings of sadness, crying spells, loneliness, being fearful, and feeling as though life is a failure, whereas positive affect included feelings of hopefulness about the future, enjoying life, feeling as good as others, and feeling happy. Interpersonal problems were represented by feeling disliked by others and holding a consistent belief that people were unfriendly. Somatic symptoms of depression included poor appetite, concentration issues, restless sleep, feeling as though everything is an effort, being bothered by things, and talking less than usual.

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At baseline, participants who reported hearing loss had higher median CESD depression scores compared to participants without hearing loss (8 vs 7, respectively; P <.001). Over time, there was a small yet significant association between baseline hearing loss and worse positive affect (b, 0.01; P =.01). There was a significant association between hearing loss and poorer baseline depressed affect (b, 0.05, P =.001) and baseline interpersonal problems (b, 0.35, P <.001). Self-reported hearing loss was also associated with somatic symptoms of depression at baseline (b, 0.07, P =.04) and over the 12-year follow-up period (b, 0.01, P =.04).


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Limitations of the study included the reliance on only 2 measures of interpersonal problems and the use of self-report for the identification of hearing loss.

These findings suggest that greater examination “of somatic symptoms and interventions targeting somatic symptoms and positive affect might enhance wellbeing among older adults with self-reported hearing loss.” The researchers theorized that there may be “a broader pattern of older adults reporting somatic depression symptoms more so than cognitive-affective symptoms of depression.”

Reference

Cosh S, Carriere I, Delcourt C, Helmer C, Consortium TS. A dimensional approach to understanding the relationship between self-reported hearing loss and depression over 12 years: the Three-City study [published online March 13, 2020]. Aging Ment Health. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2020.1727845.