Maturitas 2019 Mar 12;121:35-40. Epub 2018 Dec 12.
Golgi Cenci Foundation, Corso San Martino 10, 20081, Abbiategrasso, Italy. Electronic address:
Objective: Hearing loss is a common chronic condition in elderly people. The prevalence of disabling hearing loss among the elderly worldwide is 33% and in Italy ranges from 0.6% (profound hearing loss) to 39% (mild hearing loss). We investigated the relationship between self-reported hearing disability and clinician-evaluated hearing status, and its longitudinal consequences in relation to cognitive impairment and functional decline. We hypothesised that subjects who report that they have a hearing disability have a worse functional and cognitive profile than people who do not report having a hearing disability.
Methods: We analysed 1171 participants in the InveCe.Ab study, a longitudinal population-based study. We evaluated whether self-reported hearing disability was consistent with clinician-evaluated hearing status (using the Whispered Voice Test; WVT), categorizing this variable as: unaware of hearing loss (UHL), aware of hearing loss (AHL), only subjective hearing loss (OSHL), without hearing loss (noHL). We also examined its relationship with various population characteristics, and its long-term effects on functional and cognitive performance and depressive symptoms.
Results: At baseline, hearing loss was found in 13.6% (95% CI: 11.7-15.7) of the participants [17.6% (95% CI: 12.0-24.4) AHL; 82.4% (95% CI: 75.6-88) UHL], while 2.3% (95% CI: 1.4-3.4) of the subjects with normal WVT hearing status had OSHL. Male gender, age, functional and cognitive performance, and depressive symptoms were associated with consistency between self-reported hearing disability and WVT hearing status. Longitudinal analysis revealed worsening functional performance and selective attention, global cognitive deterioration, and depressive symptoms in the AHL group.
Conclusions: Our results showed that awareness of hearing disability in the elderly has adverse cognitive and functional consequences over time. When clinicians inform those who are unaware of their hearing problems, they should arrange for prompt referral not only for audiometric evaluation but also for counselling in order to prevent a negative impact of awareness of hearing loss.