MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM — University of Manchester researchers have discovered that hearing loss may act as a cause of depression in older people. Those in the lowest wealth groups studied were found to have twice the risk of developing depression than those in the highest wealth groups.
Published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, the landmark study goes some way in “laying to rest more than 40 years of research on whether hearing loss causes depression”.
The data also showed that hearing aids have a stronger effect in alleviating symptoms of depression in poorer socio-economic groups than in wealthy ones.
Improvement in symptoms of depression were stronger among those using their hearing aids ‘most of the time’ than those using them ‘some of the time’.
The researchers analysed longitudinally the entire dataset of participants aged 50–89 years in 8 Waves of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), from 2002 to 2017, examining 74,908 people.
Hearing Loss and Socioeconomics
The study findings for the first time revealed that hearing loss affected people according to their socioeconomic position.
“Our study shows that hearing loss poses a substantial risk for depressive symptoms in older adults, especially those who experience socioeconomic inequalities. We also think that hearing aids could support the most vulnerable people who already lacked life opportunities compared to the most affluent. That way they were able to take more control of their lives and keep participating actively in society. Our study shows that hearing loss poses a substantial risk for depressive symptoms in older adults, especially those who experience socioeconomic inequalities”
–Dr. Dalia Tsimpida
“We think it’s reasonable to identify hearing loss as a causal factor because we used advanced statistical techniques called dynamic cross-lagged path models (CLPMs) to estimate hearing loss and depression’s relationship over time,” added Dr. Tsimpida, a Chartered Psychologist and postdoctoral researcher based in the University of Manchester’s Division of Medical Education. “We argue the early detection of hearing loss by primary care professionals in routine assessments may not only promote better hearing health but also prevent or delay the onset of depression. Increasing the hearing loss treatment rate could be one effective strategy for risk reduction of depression, given the high prevalence of hearing loss in older age and its low treatment levels.”
“The existing evidence on the association between hearing loss and depression was conflicting; our study now adds to this body of knowledge by identifying for the first time the socioeconomic pattern in their relationship,” said Co-author Dr Maria Panagioti. “Focusing primarily on the role of the socioeconomic position may satisfactorily explain the causal, temporal and graded relationship between hearing loss and depression over time, which differs according to people’s status in the social hierarchy.”
“Our study has important and novel clinical implications, as it adds to the understanding of the interrelationship between hearing loss and depression, and the potential impact of interventions with hearing aids for people’s mental health.”
Tsimpida, D., Kontopantelis, E., Ashcroft, D.M. et al. The dynamic relationship between hearing loss, quality of life, socioeconomic position and depression and the impact of hearing aids: answers from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-021-02155-0
Source: University of Manchester