DOI: 10.3390/jpm14010023 ISSN: 2075-4426

Aging Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: Age Influences Hearing Ability and Interactions between Psychological Phenomena in Patients with Chronic Tinnitus

Maren Fresemann, Benjamin Boecking, Kurt Steinmetzger, Petra Brueggemann, Matthias Rose, Birgit Mazurek
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

(1) Background: Risk factors for chronic tinnitus comprise interactions of individuals’ hearing difficulties and psychological distress—including anxiety, depression, and perceived stress levels. Both groups of factors likely become more pronounced with age, although mixed literature has also suggested increases in psychological resilience over time. To this end, only a few studies have delineated direct and indirect effects of age on audiological and psychological variables that might influence tinnitus-related distress in patients with chronic tinnitus. (2) Methods: N = 678 patients with chronic tinnitus completed audiological assessments alongside self-report measures of psychological and tinnitus-related distress. Path analyses investigated the effect of age on patients’ tinnitus-related distress via both audiological and psychological variables. (3) Results: Age was significantly associated with both hearing ability and psychological distress indices, with perceived stress and anxiety decreasing with aging. Different mediation models revealed that the association between age and tinnitus-related distress was mediated completely by hearing ability and partly by perceived stress and anxiety. (4) Conclusion: Whilst interactions of individuals’ hearing ability and psychological distress levels maintain tinnitus-related distress across the age span, the weighting of these factors may shift with age. Treatment approaches should consider hearing ability across the lifespan. Psychological factors should be individually conceptualized, considering both distress-related and potential resilience factors in old age.

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