Depression and poor self-esteem, due to victimization and bullying, have long been associated with children and adolescents who are deaf/hard of hearing (Theunissen et al, 2014). Unfortunately, childhood hearing loss may be associated with poor mental health. Previous studies on mental health and hearing loss in young children and adolescents have focused on those with permanent sensorineural hearing loss, and no other factors.
Butcher et al (2022) conducted a prospective observational cohort study of children living in the United Kingdom who were born between 2000–2002. Data were collected for the children and their families at age 9 months, 3, 5, 7, 11, and 14 years of age.
Participants included nearly 11,000 children with self-reported data on victimization (bullying), depression symptoms, and self-harm at age 14. Depressive symptoms were reported via a clinically-validated questionnaire, self-harm was evaluated with a “yes” or “no” question, and two questions were asked of the children in regards to bullying.
Hearing loss was reported by parents at all ages, except at age 14, when the child was asked whether they had hearing difficulties or used hearing aids/cochlear implants. Children were, then, categorized into a group with any hearing loss and a control group with no hearing loss. Those with hearing loss were further divided into groups representing age of onset.
Other variables studied were sex, ethnic background, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admission, parental education, maternal age at birth of child, and longstanding illness in addition to hearing loss. Hearing aids and cochlear implants were reported for fewer than one percent of children at each sweep of data collection.
Results revealed that childhood hearing loss is associated with higher odds of self-reported adolescent depressive symptoms and self-harm. In females only, there was a higher percentage of self-reported bullying. Overall, the authors confirm a higher risk of self-harm in children with hearing loss and found that children with late onset HL (after age five) without resolution had the highest odds of self-harm.
Butcher E, Cortina-Borja M, Dezateux C, Knowles R. (2022) The association between childhood hearing loss and self-reported peer victimization, depressive symptoms, and self-harm: longitudinal analyses of a prospective, nationally representative cohort study. BMC Public Health 22:1045.
Theunissen SC, Rieffe C, Netten AP, et al. (2014) Psychopathology and its risk and protective factors in hearing-impaired children and adolescents: a systematic review. JAMA Pediatr 168:170–7.
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