Background: Hearing impairment (HI) is a very common condition in elderly people and the epidemiology together with hearing-related problems is still poorly investigated. Moreover, the cognitive status may be impaired in relation to hearing function.
Objective: The goal of the study was to evaluate: (a) the prevalence of HI in a random sample of elderly people aged 65 and over (n = 1,750) living in Campania, a region of southern Italy; (b) the cross-sectional relationship between hearing function and cognitive status and also depressive symptomatology and disability, and (c) to assess the role of hearing aids on depressive symptomatology.
Methods: Cross-sectional study on a random sample of elderly population.
Results: The overall participation rate in the study was 74.8% (n = 1,332, mean age was 74.2 +/- 6.4 years). The prevalence rate of HI (evaluated by questionnaire) was 27.2%, cognitive impairment prevalence (evaluated by the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)) was 27.9%, mean depressive symptomatology score (evaluated by Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS)) was 11.4 +/- 6.6, while disability assessed by Activity of Daily Living (ADL) was present in 7.0% of the whole population. A strong relationship was found between both decreasing hearing function and MMSE decline, independently by the effect of age and education (r = 0.97; p < 0.01). A positive relationship (r = 0.85; p < 0.01) between GDS score and hearing function was also found. Moreover, at an increased level of hearing loss, a lower ADL score was recorded (r = 0.98; p < 0.01). Finally, the use of hearing aids reduced GDS score. In logistic regression analysis, gender, age and educational level indicate that hearing loss risk increased with age (odds ratio 1.60; 95% confidence interval 1.53-1.71), whereas education plays a protective role (odds ratio 0.75; 95% confidence interval 0.72-0.80).
Conclusion: HI is very prevalent among elderly people and is associated with either cognitive impairment and/or depression and reduction of functional status. This study suggests that hearing aids may protect against cognitive impairment and disability, improving quality of life of aged people. Copyrightz1999S.KargerAG,Basel