As people get older they suffer from many health conditions, this may be because of increasing propensity towards disease and/or a natural deterioration in parts or systems of the body. Some of these are evident and receive widespread public and academic attention (such as heart disease or dementia), others such as deafness do not, despite the potential to be a devastating chronic condition.
Hearing impairment is often called an invisible handicap and is one of the most common chronic conditions of later life. Deafness can impose a heavy social and economic burden on individuals, families, communities, and countries in terms of exclusion and worklessness. As the deaf-blind American author Helen Keller once said “Blindness separates people from things. Deafness separates people from people.” There is evidence that deafness can be associated with depression and perhaps also cognitive decline.
In the current study we aim to use the Northern Ireland Mortality Study (NIMS) to describe distribution and correlates of self-reported hearing problems in the Northern Ireland population and the association between self-reported hearing problems, poor mental health and subsequent mortality.