Hearing loss associated with depression, causal relationship less clear

September 30, 2022

2 minute read



GolubJS. Not fading: Depression and subclinical hearing loss. Presented at: BRAINWeek; September 28-30, 2022; Vegas.

Golub reports receiving consulting fees and travel expenses for industry-sponsored meetings from Alcon.

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LAS VEGAS — Data obtained from existing academic research shows that hearing loss is associated with depression, but a causal relationship between the two has not yet been established, according to an expert from BRAINWeek 2022.

Justin S. Golub

“The first thing to know is that association does not equal causation, so how do we show that [hearing loss and depression] are causal, because it’s hard to do,” Justin S. Golub, MD, MS, associate professor of otolaryngology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, said during the presentation.

Hearing problem in an elderly man

Source: Adobe Stock.

The answer, Golub proposed, is to formulate and complete a series of randomized controlled trials to gather enough data to prove or disprove any relationship between association and causation.

Golub cited his own 2018 study, which looked at age-related hearing loss with depressive symptoms in more than 5,300 Hispanic people. The results showed that, compared to people with normal hearing, people with mild hearing loss were 1.8 times more likely to develop depression, those with moderate hearing loss were 2.4 times more likely to suffer depression and those with severe hearing loss 4.3 times more likely. for the same.

Age-related hearing loss factors that may lead to depression, Golub said, fall into two main categories: causal and non-causal pathways. The normal course of aging, neurodegenerative factors, and microvascular disease are cited as examples of the former, with cognitive impairment, the development of tinnitus, and reduced socialization both as a result of tinnitus and independently thereof cited as examples of the first.

Less likely to logically point to a correlation, he added, was the theory of reverse causation, in the hypothetical case of an individual who suffers from depression isolating himself by wearing headphones that play loud music. Subsequent long-term exposure would then lead to hearing loss.

Existing data has proven that hearing loss is definitely associated with depressive symptoms and could be a cause of depression, that the introduction of hearing aids can prevent depression, and that any association between the two begins with subclinical hearing loss, Golub said.

Using the example of immediate action plan taken when children suffer from hearing loss as opposed to older adults who suffer from the same and may not respond quickly, Golub added that whatever the cause or age of the patient, the need for treatment is immediate to avoid on future potential negative outcomes.

“Disparities are never fair; they are evidence of an inherent bias,” Golub said. “You want to treat children and adults the same.”

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