Hearing loss and associated medical conditions among individuals 65 years and older

Michael M. McKee, M.D., M.P.H., Michelle L. Stransky, Ph.D., Amanda Reichard, Ph.D

Disability and Health Journal, Volume 11, Issue 1, January 2018, Pages 122-125

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dhjo.2017.05.007


Hearing loss is prevalent, but few studies have investigated its associations with common medical conditions.


The objective was to assess the prevalence of medical conditions among individuals with hearing loss, compared to those without hearing loss, in people aged 65 years and older.


The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) collects data on a variety of health-related topics, including disability. Three years of NHIS data (2011–2013; unweighted n = 53,111) were pooled to examine subpopulations of individuals with hearing loss. Comparisons were made between adults aged 65 and older with, and without, self-reported hearing loss. Statistical analysis included descriptive frequencies, Chi-square tests, and multiple logistic regressions. The outcomes of interest included self-reported diagnosis of arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, emphysema, stroke, cancer, asthma, multiple chronic conditions, health status, and obesity.


Hearing loss prevalence was nearly 37%. After adjusting for sociodemographics, smoking status, and disability, hearing loss was independently associated with the following conditions: arthritis (OR 1.41; 1.27–1.57), cancer (OR 1.35; 1.21–1.5), cardiovascular disease (OR 1.48; 1.33–1.66), diabetes (OR 1.16; 1.03–1.31), emphysema (OR 1.41; 1.14–1.74), high blood pressure (OR 1.29; 1.17–1.43), and stroke (OR 1.39; 1.12–1.66). There was an association with worse health status over the past year (OR 1.5 (1.3–1.73).


Hearing loss among older individuals is independently associated with increased disease burden and poorer self-reported health. Future studies are needed to investigate the mechanistic nature of these associations, and whether improved access to hearing healthcare surveillance can reduce the overall health burden among these individuals.