Importance: Age-related hearing loss is highly prevalent and has recently been associated with numerous morbid conditions of aging. Late-life depression is also prevalent and can be resistant to available treatments. Preliminary studies examining the association between hearing loss and late-life depression have been limited by subjective hearing measures, small sample sizes, and primarily white populations.
Objective: To assess whether a cross-sectional association exists between objective audiometric hearing loss and depressive symptoms in older Hispanic adults.
Design, setting, and participants: This cross-sectional study uses 2008-2011 Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos data collected in Miami, Florida, San Diego, California, Chicago, Illinois, or the Bronx, New York, from 5328 Hispanic adults 50 years or older who had exposure, outcome, and covariate data. Data analyses were conducted from March 2018 to September 2018.
Exposure: Audiometric hearing loss (pure-tone average).
Main outcomes and measures: Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, 10-item version (CESD-10) score of 10 or higher, which indicates clinically significant depressive symptoms.
Results: The median age (interquartile range) of the 5328 participants was 58 (53-63) years, and 3283 participants (61.6%) were female. The mean (SD) CESD-10 score was 7.7 (6.4). Of the 5328 included participants, 1751 (32.9%) had clinically significant depressive symptoms. The odds of having these symptoms increased 1.44 (95% CI, 1.27-1.63) times for every 20 dB of hearing loss, adjusting for hearing aid use, age, sex, educational level, study site, geographic background, cardiovascular disease, and antidepressant use. Compared with those for individuals with normal hearing (0 dB), the odds of having clinically significant depressive symptoms was 1.81 (95% CI, 1.48-2.22) times as high in individuals with mild hearing loss (median threshold, 32.5 dB), 2.38 (95% CI, 1.77-3.20) times as high in individuals with moderate hearing loss (median threshold, 47.5 dB), and 4.30 (95% CI, 2.61-7.09) times as high in individuals with severe hearing loss (median threshold, 80 dB).
Conclusions and relevance: Objective hearing loss appears to be associated with clinically significant depressive symptoms in older Hispanic people, with greater hearing loss seemingly associated with greater odds of having depressive symptoms. Given the high prevalence of untreated hearing loss in older adults, hearing loss may be a potentially modifiable risk factor for late-life depression.