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NIDCD Researchers Find Strong Link between Hearing Loss and Depression in Adults

March 7, 2014

Researchers from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health, have found a strong association between hearing impairment and depression among U.S. adults of all ages, particularly in women. The findings were similar among whites, blacks, and Hispanics.

Chuan-Ming Li, M.D., Ph.D., in the Epidemiology and Statistics Program at the NIDCD, was the lead author of the study. The researchers used 2005-10 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). NHANES is a nationally representative survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)). The report is published in the March 6, 2014 online edition of JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck SurgeryThis link will open a non-federal website in a new window..

The findings are based on self-reports of hearing loss among adults ages 18 or older along with a standard questionnaire to assess depression based on the frequency and severity of symptoms. Adults 70 or older were also tested for hearing loss by trained examiners in an NHANES mobile examination center.

The prevalence of moderate to severe depression was higher among U.S. adults aged 18 or older with self-reported hearing impairment (11.4 percent) compared to those without hearing impairment (5.9 percent).

Among men and women 70 years or older, self-reported hearing loss was not associated with depression. However, women (but not men) whose hearing tests revealed moderate hearing loss were more likely to be depressed than those who did not have hearing loss.

The researchers note that health professionals may be better able to improve the quality of life among people with hearing impairment by recognizing the signs and symptoms of depression and referring patients for mental health services.

Co-authors of the paper include scientists from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the National Eye Institute, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.