Hear me out: a meta-analysis of third-party disability due to presbycusis

Gabrielle K. Picard*, Adam C. Bentvelzen, Greg Savage, Amanda Barnier, Paul Strutt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Hearing-related third-party disability is the transferrable impact of presbycusis on an affected individual's surrounding social network. Previous research suggests that interventions to overcome hearing-related communication challenges benefit both the individual with presbycusis and their communication partner. However, there have been no comparisons of the effects of different interventions on third-party disability. We conducted meta-analyses of hearing aid or communication-based longitudinal interventions to determine if: both kinds of interventions significantly benefit communication partners across three categories of third-party disability (communication, emotional health and lifestyle outcomes), hearing aid and communication interventions differ in the size of treatment effects, and demographic variables moderate intervention efficacy.

Design: Four databases were systematically searched for studies published after 1990 that included preintervention and postintervention data for communication partners of individuals receiving a hearing aid or communication-based intervention. Studies were included if participants had presbycusis, were aged 45 or over, with no known physical or mental disorders, and had a willing study partner over 18 years old. Databases were last comprehensively and hand-searched in January 2023. One researcher applied the inclusion and exclusion criteria to select studies and complete data extraction. Depending on study design, risk of bias was assessed using the "Quality Assessment Tool for Before-After (Pre-Post) Studies with No Control Group" or the "Risk of Bias 2." Random effects models were run for effect sizes for both intervention types (together and separately) for each third-party disability category. Meta-regressions were run to inspect the effect of demographic variables on intervention efficacy.

Results: Six studies satisfied inclusion criteria and showed that for both hearing and communication interventions, communication partners experienced significant improvements in all three outcomes. Communication interventions showed greater benefits for lifestyle outcomes, but hearing aid and communication interventions did not differ for communication and emotional health outcomes. Meta-regressions revealed previously undetected relationships between demographic variables and intervention efficacy.

Conclusions: The results of this meta-analysis and meta-regressions may have clinical and real-world implications in terms of highlighting the widespread benefits of these interventions, and the need to build in greater consideration of an individual's wider network when designing and implementing interventions. Noted limitations included certain combinations of intervention type and third-party disability category that were underrepresented (in absolute and/or relative terms), a lack of combined intervention (hearing aids and communication training) studies, and variation in the types of questionnaires used between studies. The current study discusses possible ways to unite the current literature for more consistent research practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-305
Number of pages9
JournalEar and Hearing
Issue number2
Early online date28 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • age-related hearing loss
  • audiological intervention
  • audiological rehabilitation
  • communication intervention
  • hearing aid
  • meta-analysis
  • presbycusis
  • spouses
  • third-party disability


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