Objectives: The aim of the paper is to assess the significance of hearing disability as a public health problem through its association with multiple negative health outcomes: subjective health perception, mental health and social well-being.
Methods: The data come from the participants of the 1997 national health survey in Belgium, who were 15 years and older (n = 8,560). The presence and severity of the hearing disability was estimated through self-reporting. The association of hearing disability with the studied health outcomes was assessed using logistic regression while controlling for confounding factors such as age, sex, co-morbidity and socio-economic status.
Results: The prevalence of hearing disability is 7% in the population 15 years and older. The prevalence of subjective ill health (Odds Ratio (OR): 1.32), mental ill health (OR: 1.51), and a low appreciation of the social contacts (OR: 1.73) was higher in subjects with hearing disability. No association was found between hearing disability and the frequency of social contacts or with the functional content of the social contacts.
Conclusions: Given the health and social consequences of hearing disability, increased public health attention, including both strategies for prevention, for identification and treatment, is warranted.