Aims were (1) to examine whether socioeconomic position (SEP) is associated with hearing loss (HL) among older adults in England and (2) whether major modifiable lifestyle factors (high body mass index, physical inactivity, tobacco consumption and alcohol intake above the low-risk-level guidelines) are associated with HL after controlling for non-modifiable demographic factors and SEP.
We used data from the wave 7 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, which is a longitudinal household survey dataset of a representative sample of people aged 50 and older.
The final analytical sample was 8529 participants aged 50-89 that gave consent to have their hearing acuity objectively measured by a screening audiometry device and did not have any ear infection.
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES:
HL defined as >35 dBHL at 3.0 kHz (better-hearing ear). Those with HL were further subdivided into two categories depending on the number of tones heard at 3.0 kHz.
HL was identified in 32.1% of men and 22.3% of women aged 50-89. Those in a lower SEP were up to two times more likely to have HL; the adjusted odds of HL were higher for those with no qualifications versus those with a degree/higher education (men: OR 1.87, 95%CI 1.47 to 2.38, women: OR 1.53, 95%CI 1.21 to 1.95), those in routine/manual occupations versus those in managerial/professional occupations (men: OR 1.92, 95%CI 1.43 to 2.63, women: OR 1.25, 95%CI 1.03 to 1.54), and those in the lowest versus the highest income and wealth quintiles (men: OR 1.62, 95%CI 1.08 to 2.44, women: OR 1.36, 95%CI 0.85 to 2.16, and men: OR1.72, 95%CI 1.26 to 2.35, women: OR 1.88, 95%CI 1.37 to 2.58, respectively). All regression models showed that socioeconomic and the modifiable lifestyle factors were strongly associated with HL after controlling for age and gender.
Socioeconomic and lifestyle factors are associated with HL among older adults as strongly as core demographic risk factors, such as age and gender. Socioeconomic inequalities and modifiable lifestyle behaviours need to be targeted by the health policy strategies, as an important step in designing interventions for individuals that face hearing health inequalities.