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Friday, December 28, 2018

Hearing Loss Is a Risk Factor for Premature Death

Hearing loss is linked to an increased risk of mortality for those under 75 years old, but a family and a well-hearing partner can mitigate that risk, according to a new study (Soc Sci Med. 2019 Jan;220:219-225. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.11.022. Epub 2018 Nov 13). Researchers from the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health analyzed data from 50,462 adults over the age of 20 who were enrolled in the Nord-Trøndelag Hearing Loss Study from 1996 to 1998 and collected their data on marital status and number of children from the National Population Registry. They found that hearing loss was associated with an increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, particularly for those below 75 years of age, but the association was weaker when adjusting for family status and whether one has children. The mortality risk was highest in divorced or separated and never married subjects, and there was an increased mortality risk due to hearing loss among those who were childless, especially women. There was a trend for a lower mortality related to hearing loss in subjects with a well-hearing partner.

Vegard Skirbekk, PhD, one of the study authors, a faculty member at the Columbia Aging Center, and a professor of population and family health at the Mailman School of Public Health, said it is well known that rapid population-level aging is likely to result in a greater prevalence of hearing impairment and that hearing loss can raise mortality risks, but there has not yet been much focus on how these effects relate to ongoing changes in family dynamics. "When governments develop plans to lower the incidence of hearing impairment, they may want to consider the family dimension when designing intervention and social and health support systems," he said.