Anxiety disorders are common. Prevalence is likely to be raised in people with hearing impairment, who experience higher rates of associated risk factors. We conducted, to our knowledge, the first systematic review of the prevalence and correlates of anxiety in people with hearing impairment.
We searched electronic databases and references of included studies, using predetermined criteria to retrieve original research reporting prevalence of anxiety disorders or symptoms in adult, hearing impaired populations. We assessed risk of bias using the adapted Newcastle Ottawa Scale.
We included 25 studies evaluating 17,135 people with hearing impairment. Community studies of higher quality reported a lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorder of 11.1% (one study) and point prevalences of 15.4–31.3% for clinically significant anxiety symptoms (five studies) in people who predominantly had acquired hearing impairment. Anxiety prevalence was higher in hearing impaired people in 8/10 studies with a comparator non-hearing impaired group. Anxiety symptoms decreased after surgical intervention for hearing in all studies investigating this. Correlates consistently associated with anxiety were tinnitus and hearing impairment severity.
Prevalence of anxiety is higher among people with hearing impairment than the general population; our findings indicate that this excess morbidity may be related to the hearing impairment itself, as it was associated with the severity of impairment, and reduced after surgical treatment. Clinicians should be aware of the potential impact of hearing on mental health, and that where hearing ability can be improved, this may reduce anxiety.
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