Age-Related Hearing Loss and Its Association with Depression in Later Life

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2018 Jul;26(7):788-796. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2018.04.003. Epub 2018 Apr 13.


Objectives: To evaluate the association between age-related hearing loss (ARHL) and depressive symptoms in older adults over time.

Methods: Data from the Health Aging and Body Composition study (N = 3075, aged 70-79 at baseline) were used previously to conduct a longitudinal latent class analysis to evaluate depression trajectories (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression [CES-D] Scale) over 10 years. Restricting to the subset of subjects who had hearing information available (N = 1204), self-reported hearing categories were evaluated over the same period. Association between depression classes and hearing categories were assessed via multinomial logistic regression analyses. Correlation analyses and two-sample t-tests were used to assess cross-sectional associations between depression status and audiometric hearing measures.

Results: Low-probability (N = 644), increasing-probability (N = 385), and high-probability (N = 175) trajectories of depressive symptoms were identified for the 10-year period. Impaired/Worsening (N = 182) and Healthy/Improving (N = 1,022) hearing categories were defined using self-reports. With the low-probability depression trajectory as the reference group, subjects reporting Impaired/Worsening hearing had 1.63 times increased odds of having an increasing- (p = 0.0088, 95% CI [1.13, 2.34]) and 1.85 times increased odds of having a high-probability depression trajectory (p = 0.0102, 95% CI [1.16, 2.96]). At Year 5, individuals with depressive symptoms (10CES-D ≥ 10) had impaired hearing ability measured by audiometric threshold for low-frequency (Adjusted mean difference = 2.29 dBHL, p = 0.0005) and mid-frequency sounds (Adjusted mean difference = 2.28 dBHL,p = 0.0049) compared to those with 10CES-D < 10.

Conclusions: ARHL was associated with increased depressive symptoms in older adults. Future studies should investigate whether treatment of ARHL may be an effective prevention and/or therapeutic strategy for depressive symptoms.

Keywords: Hearing impairment; depression; older adults; successful aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Audiometry / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Hearing Loss / complications
  • Hearing Loss / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Late Onset Disorders / physiopathology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male