Hearing loss raises depression risk in elderly

New York: Older adults with age-related hearing loss are more likely to have greater risk of depressive symptoms, finds a study.

The researchers, from the Columbia University in the US, found that older adults with mild hearing loss were almost twice as likely to have clinically significant symptoms of depression than those with normal hearing.

Individuals with severe hearing loss had over four times the odds of having depressive symptoms.

It is because “people with hearing loss have trouble communicating and tend to become more socially isolated, and social isolation can lead to depression”, explained lead author Justin S. Golub, Assistant Professor at the Columbia University.

The findings, published in the JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery journal, suggest that treatment of age-related hearing loss, which is underrecognised and undertreated among all elderly, could be one way to head off late-life depression.

“Most people over age 70 have at least mild hearing loss, yet relatively few are diagnosed, much less treated, for this condition,” said lead author Justin S. Golub, Assistant Professor at the university.

“Hearing loss is easy to diagnose and treat, and treatment may be even more important if it can help ease or prevent depression.”

For the study, the team analysed health data from 5,239 individuals over age 50. Each participant had an audiometric hearing test — an objective way to assess hearing loss — and was screened for depression.

Age-related hearing loss is the third-most common chronic condition in older adults. The condition is known to raise the risk of other conditions, such as cognitive impairment and dementia.

According to the researchers, “older individuals should get their hearing tested and consider treatment, if warranted”.