University of Manchester researchers have discovered that hearing loss may act as a cause of depression in older people.
And those in the lowest wealth groups, they found, had up to twice the relative risk of developing depression than those in the highest wealth quintiles, as hearing loss disproportionally affected their quality of life.
Published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, the landmark study goes some way in laying to rest more than 40 years of research on whether hearing loss causes depression.
The data also showed that hearing aids have a stronger effect in alleviating symptoms of depression in poorer socio-economic groups than in wealthy ones.
And improved symptoms of depression were more pronounced among those using their hearing aids ‘most of the time’ than those using them ‘some of the time’.
The researchers analysed longitudinally the entire dataset of participants aged 50–89 years in 8 Waves of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), from 2002 to 2017, examining 74,908 people.
The findings for the first time revealed that hearing loss affected people according to their socioeconomic position.
Dr Dalia Tsimpida, from The University of Manchester who led the study, said: “Our study shows that hearing loss poses a substantial risk for depressive symptoms in older adults, especially those who experience socioeconomic inequalities.
“We also think that hearing aids could support the most vulnerable people who already lacked life opportunities compared to the most affluent.
“That way they were able to take more control of their lives and keep participating actively in society.”