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Hearing Loss Tied to Depression in Study

Women, non-seniors more likely to be affected this way, researchers say
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Kathleen Doheny

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 6, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Hearing loss is associated with depression among American adults, especially women and those younger than age 70, according to new research.

While other studies previously have found the same link, many of them looked only at older adults or at specific regions or ethnicities, and results have been mixed, the researchers pointed out.

In the new study, as hearing declined, the percentage of depressed adults increased -- from about 5 percent in those who had no hearing problems to more than 11 percent in those who did.

"We found a significant association between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression," said study author Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, a researcher at the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. "The cause-and-effect relationship is unknown," Li said, citing a need for further studies.

The study was published online March 6 in JAMA Otolaryngology--Head & Neck Surgery.

The new findings make sense, according to two experts in the field who reviewed the study conclusions.

"It is not surprising to me that they would be more likely to be depressed," said James Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging. "People with hearing loss, especially those who don't use hearing aids, find it more difficult to communicate with other people, whether in family situations, social gatherings or at work."

Experts who care for those with hearing loss have long noticed the link, said Robert Frisina, director of the Global Center for Hearing & Speech Research at the University of South Florida, in Tampa. "When they come in [to see about their hearing], they mention this," he said.

Even so, Frisina noted, the study is valuable because it adds solid data to the anecdotal information.

For the new study, the researchers looked at data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, including more than 18,000 adults aged 18 and older. The younger people self-reported on their hearing status, while hearing tests were given to those 70 and older. All participants filled out a questionnaire designed to reveal depression.

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