Depression and hearing loss: the relationship between the two is stronger for middle-agers compared to older populations

23 August 2017

  • New research strengthens recent findings suggesting a relationship between hearing loss and depressive symptoms is slightly stronger in the middle-aged populations – specifically those in their 40s and 50s, than older populations
  • Further research needed to better understand the link between depression and middle-aged populations with hearing loss
  • Due to the observed link between the two conditions, hearing health professionals should pay attention to the potential impacts of hearing loss on a patient’s mental health and wellbeing
  • The results highlight the need for a holistic healthcare model for hearing loss in Australia that considers a patient’s mental health and wellbeing

A study by National Acoustic Laboratories and Macquarie University’s Australian Hearing Hub has provided increasing evidence that the relationship between hearing loss and depressive symptoms is stronger in middle-aged populations, compared to populations that are older, with implications for the hearing healthcare profession.

“The results tell us that there is a slightly stronger association in the middle-aged population between poor hearing and feeling depressed, but we can’t be sure whether people with a hearing loss are more likely to get depressed, or if depressed people are more likely to perceive that they have problems with their hearing,” explained lead researcher Dr Gitte Keidser.

“Most likely, audiologists meet both types of clients in their practice, and therefore it is pertinent that those in this profession also pay attention to the potential psychosocial impacts of living with a hearing loss,” she continued.

According to the study’s findings, the stronger association between the two conditions in this age group could not be entirely explained by factors such as being unemployed, frequency of social interaction and number of physical health problems.

“We did find, however, that the association was stronger in men, which is a concern as there is evidence that males are less likely to seek professional help.”

The findings reveal a need for urgent reviews on how best to encourage those who are middle-aged to seek intervention and to support those who do; whether for depression, a hearing problem, or both.

“Those in the audiological profession should also consider adding counselling to their services, or other ways they can help with a patient’s mental health and well-being whose hearing loss might lead to depressive symptoms,” concluded Dr Keidser.

The study is being published in a special issue of the Trends in Hearing journal showcasing an array of collaborative research from Macquarie University’s Australian Hearing Hub.

Keidser, Gitte; Seeto, Mark. The influence of social interaction and physical health on the association between hearing and depression with age and gender. Trends in Hearing. July 2017.

This study received financial support from the HEARing Cooperative Research Centre, established and supported under the Business Cooperative Research Centres Programme, and the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.

The Australian Hearing Hub, an initiative of Macquarie University and the Australian Government, provided financial support for the publication of this research article.

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