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The Association Between Hearing Status and Psychosocial Health Before the Age of 70 Years: Results From an Internet-Based National Survey on Hearing

Nachtegaal, Janneke1,4; Smit, Jan H.2,4; Smits, Cas1,4; Bezemer, Pieter D.3,4; van Beek, Johannes H. M.1,4; Festen, Joost M.1,4; Kramer, Sophia E.1,4

doi: 10.1097/AUD.0b013e31819c6e01
Research Articles
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Objective: There is a substantial lack of knowledge of the impact of reduced hearing on psychosocial functioning in adults younger than 70 yr. The aim of this study was to examine the association between hearing status and psychosocial health in adults aged between 18 and 70 yr.

Design: This was a cross-sectional cohort study. Baseline data of the National Longitudinal Study on Hearing are analyzed using regression models. The cohort consisted of 1511 participants. Hearing status was determined using the National Hearing test, a recently launched speech-in-noise screening test over the Internet. We assessed self-reported psychosocial health using a set of online questionnaires.

Results: Adjusting for confounding variables, significant adverse associations between hearing status and distress, somatization, depression, and loneliness are found. For every decibel signal to noise ratio (dB SNR) reduction of hearing status, both the distress and somatization scores increased by 2% [distress: b = 0.02, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.00 to 0.03, p = 0.03; somatization: b = 0.02, 95% CI = 0.01 to 0.04, p < 0.001]. The odds for developing moderate or severe depression increase by 5% for every dB SNR reduction in hearing (odds ratio = 1.05, 95% CI = 1.00 to 1.09, p = 0.03). The odds for developing severe or very severe loneliness significantly increase by 7% for every dB SNR reduction in hearing (odds ratio = 1.07, 95% CI = 1.02 to 1.12, p = 0.004). Different age groups exhibit different associations between hearing status and psychosocial health, with loneliness being an issue particularly in the youngest age group (18 to 30 yr). In the group of middle-aged adults (40 to 50 yr), the number of significant associations is highest.

Conclusions: Hearing status is negatively associated with higher distress, depression, somatization, and loneliness in young and middle-aged adults. The associations are different in different age groups. The findings underline the need to seriously address the adverse effects of limited hearing among young and middle-aged adults both in future research and in clinical practice.

There is a substantial lack of knowledge on the impact of reduced hearing on psychosocial functioning in young and middle-aged adults. This study addresses this issue. Baseline data of the National Longitudinal Study on Hearing, including 1511 participants (18 - 70 years, Mean: 46.3 years) are analyzed. Hearing status was determined using a speech-in-noise test over the Internet. Psychosocial health was assessed using online questionnaires. Significant associations between reduced hearing and distress, somatization, depression and loneliness are found. The associations differ among age groups The findings underline the need to address the adverse effects of limited hearing among young and middle-aged adults both in research and clinical practice.

Departments of 1ENT/Audiology, 2Psychiatry, 3Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, 4EMGO Institute, VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

This study was financially supported by the Heinsius Houbolt Foundation.

Address for correspondence: Janneke Nachtegaal, MSc, Department of ENT/Audiology, VU University Medical Centre, EMGO Institute, P.O. Box 7057, 1007 MB Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail: j.nachtegaal@vumc.nl.

Received March 25, 2008; accepted November 4, 2008.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.