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Link found between hearing loss and late-life depression

Tuesday 15th January 2019
New research in the US has given a strong indication of a link between hearing loss and depression in later life.
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Providing good audiology services that help people hear better can also help prevent depression in later life, a new study has found.

A study carried out by the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, USA found that the worse hearing gets as people age, the more severe late-life depression is. 

Therefore, it concluded that treatment to improve hearing could have a positive impact on mood and mental health.

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

Assistant professor of otolaryngology-head & neck surgery at the university Justin S. Golub said: "Most people over age 70 have at least mild hearing loss, yet relatively few are diagnosed, much less treated, for this condition.

"Hearing loss is easy to diagnose and treat, and treatment may be even more important if it can help ease or prevent depression."

The research focused on over 5,000 Hispanic Americans aged over 50, a group where it is believed cultural and other factors may lead to depression levels being underdiagnosed. 

In the hearing tests, it was established that those tested and found to have mild hearing loss were nearly twice as likely to have symptoms of depression than those with normal hearing. Those with severe hearing loss were four times as likely to be depressed. 

While the findings helped establish the situation in the Hispanic community in the US, the researchers believe the findings are valid for all ethnic groups. This would make the findings relevant for all groups of the population in the US and the UK, although it may be that British research would help establish if there are any ethnic or cultural variations in the UK.

"In general, older individuals should get their hearing tested and consider treatment, if warranted," the professor said. 
The findings may also prompt doctors treating patients for depression to have them tested for hearing problems, as this may turn out to be the root cause of their mental health issue. 

Written by James Puckle

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