Background: Hearing impairment (HI) is a very common condition in elderly people and the epidemiology together with hearing-related problems is still poorly investigated. Moreover, the cognitive status may be impaired in relation to hearing function. Objective: The goal of the study was to evaluate: (a) the prevalence of HI in a random sample of elderly people aged 65 and over (n = 1,750) living in Campania, a region of southern Italy; (b) the cross-sectional relationship between hearing function and cognitive status and also depressive symptomatology and disability, and (c) to assess the role of hearing aids on depressive symptomatology. Methods: Cross-sectional study on a random sample of elderly population. Results: The overall participation rate in the study was 74.8% (n = 1,332, mean age was 74.2 ± 6.4 years). The prevalence rate of HI (evaluated by questionnaire) was 27.2%, cognitive impairment prevalence (evaluated by the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)) was 27.9%, mean depressive symptomatology score (evaluated by Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS)) was 11.4 ± 6.6, while disability assessed by Activity of Daily Living (ADL) was present in 7.0% of the whole population. A strong relationship was found between both decreasing hearing function and MMSE decline, independently by the effect of age and education (r = 0.97; p < 0.01). A positive relationship (r = 0.85; p < 0.01) between GDS score and hearing function was also found. Moreover, at an increased level of hearing loss, a lower ADL score was recorded (r = 0.98; p < 0.01). Finally, the use of hearing aids reduced GDS score. In logistic regression analysis, gender, age and educational level indicate that hearing loss risk increased with age (odds ratio 1.60; 95% confidence interval 1.53–1.71), whereas education plays a protective role (odds ratio 0.75; 95% confidence interval 0.72–0.80). Conclusion: HI is very prevalent among elderly people and is associated with either cognitive impairment and/or depression and reduction of functional status. This study suggests that hearing aids may protect against cognitive impairment and disability, improving quality of life of aged people.
Francesco Cacciatore, MD, PhD
Via Merliani, 20
I–80127 Napoli (Italy)
Tel. +39 081 7462270, Fax +39 081 7462339
Received: Received: June 24, 1998
Accepted: March 10, 1999
Number of Print Pages : 6
Number of Figures : 2, Number of Tables : 3, Number of References : 26
Gerontology (International Journal of Experimental and Clinical Gerontoloy)
Founded 1957 by F. Verzàr as ‘Gerontologia’, merged 1975 with ‘Gerontologia Clinica’, founded 1959 by E. Woodford-Williams and A.N. Exton-Smith
Organ of the International Association of Gerontology (IAG)
Vol. 45, No. 6, Year 1999 (Cover Date: November-December 1999)
Journal Editor: W. Meier-Ruge, Basel
ISSN: 0304–324X (print), 1423–0003 (Online)
For additional information: http://www.karger.com/journals/ger
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