Food Insecurity and Hearing Loss Are Interrelated: A Cross-Sectional Population-Based Study
Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging
Objectives: We aimed to assess whether objectively measured hearing loss and self-perceived hearing handicap in adults are independently associated with food insecurity, and vice versa. Design: Cross-sectional population-based study. Population: 2,500 participants aged 50+ years from the Blue Mountains Hearing Study, with both complete pure-tone audiometry data and information on food security status. Measurements: The pure-tone average of frequencies 0.5, 1.0, 2.0 and 4.0 kHz (PTA0.5-4KHz) >25 dB HL in the better ear, established the presence of hearing loss. Self-perceived hearing handicap was assessed by administering the Hearing Handicap Inventory for Elderly Screening (HHIE-S total scores of ≥8 indicates hearing handicap). A 12-item food security survey was administered, comprising statements related to individual and household food situations. Results: Food insecurity was reported by 12.8% of study participants. After adjusting for all potential confounders, any self-perceived hearing handicap significantly increased the likelihood of participants reporting food insecurity by 94% (p<0.0001). Participants reporting any, mild or severe self-perceived hearing handicap had around 2-fold greater odds of experiencing food insecurity. Objectively measured hearing loss did not significantly influence the food security status of study participants. Conversely, food insecurity was significantly associated with both objectively measured hearing loss and self-perceived hearing handicap: multivariate-adjusted OR 1.37 (95% CI 1.01–1.88) and OR 1.83 (95% CI 1.40–2.39), respectively. Conclusions: Food insecurity was an important social determinant of hearing health among community-dwelling adults. Conversely, participants with a significant self-perceived hearing handicap were more likely to experience food insecurity. These findings add to our understanding of the substantial public health impact of both food insecurity and hearing loss and may highlight areas for future intervention.
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National Health and Medical Research Council