Prospective effects of hearing status on loneliness and depression in older persons: Identification of subgroups.

ABSTRACT. Objective: To determine the possible longitudinal relationships between hearing status and depression, and hearing status and loneliness in the older population. Design: Multiple linear regression analyses were used to assess the associations between baseline hearing and 4-year follow-up of depression, social loneliness, and emotional loneliness. Hearing was measured both by self-report and a speech-in-noise test. Each model was corrected for age, gender, hearing aid use, baseline wellbeing, and relevant confounders. Subgroup effects were tested using interaction terms. Study sample: We used data from two waves of the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (2001–02 and 2005–06, ages 63–93). Sample sizes were 996 (self-report (SR) analyses) and 830 (speech-in-noise test (SNT) analyses). Results: Both hearing measures showed significant adverse associations with both loneliness measures (p < 0.05). However, stratified analyses showed that these effects were restricted to specific subgroups. For instance, effects were significant only for non-hearing aid users (SR-social loneliness model) and men (SR and SNT-emotional loneliness model). No significant effects appeared for depression. Conclusions: We found significant adverse effects of poor hearing on emotional and social loneliness for specific subgroups of older persons. Future research should confirm the subgroup effects and may contribute to the development of tailored prevention and intervention programs.