Hearing Loss and Depression in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Gerontologist. 2020 Apr 2;60(3):e137-e154. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnz009.


Background and objectives: Studies reporting an association between hearing loss and depression in older adults are conflicting and warrant a systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence.

Research design and methods: A search of academic databases (e.g., MEDLINE) and gray literature (e.g., OpenGrey) identified relevant articles published up to July 17, 2018. Cross-sectional or cohort designs were included. Outcome effects were computed as odds ratios (ORs) and pooled using random-effects meta-analysis (PROSPERO: CRD42018084494).

Results: A total of 147,148 participants from 35 studies met inclusion criteria. Twenty-four studies were cross-sectional and 11 were cohort designs. Overall, hearing loss was associated with statistically significantly greater odds of depression in older adults (OR = 1.47, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.31-1.65). When studies were stratified by design, hearing loss was associated with greater odds of depression in cross-sectional studies (OR = 1.54, 95% CI = 1.31-1.80) and cohort studies (OR = 1.39, 95% CI = 1.16 - 1.67), and there was no difference between cross-sectional or cohort effect estimates (Q = 0.64, p = .42). There was no effect of moderator variables (i.e., hearing aid use) on the association between hearing loss and depression, but these findings must be interpreted with caution. There was no presence of publication bias but certainty in the estimation of the overall effect was classified as "low."

Discussion and implications: Older adults may experience increased odds of depression associated with hearing loss, and this association may not be influenced by study or participant characteristics.

Keywords: Audiology; Hearing impairment; Mental health.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Depression / complications*
  • Female
  • Hearing Aids / psychology
  • Hearing Loss / complications*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life