Socioeconomic inequality in hearing impairment among working-age Australians: Evidence from a cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses

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Abstract

Objectives: The objective of this study was to analyze the spatial and temporal association between socioeconomic gradient in hearing impairment among working-age Australians.

Design: We modeled the cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between individual- and area-level socioeconomic status (SES) and hearing impairment among working-age Australians using longitudinal data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey for 10,719 working-age adults aged between 15 and 64 years surveyed between 2008 and 2018. Associations between self-reported hearing impairment and education, income, employment status, and area-level SES were estimated using a multivariate logistic regression model and Cox proportional hazards regression, controlling for age, sex, and a range of other sociodemographic factors.

Results: Among 10,719 participants, the prevalence of hearing impairment was higher among individuals with lower income, occupational status and socioeconomic disadvantage. The odds ratio (OR) of those with the lowest income quintile versus highest income quintile (OR = 2.10, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.40 to 3.14); for blue-collar occupation versus white-collar (OR = 1.92, 95% CI = 1.39 to 2.66) and most disadvantaged area quintile versus most advantaged area quintile (OR = 1.76, 95% CI = 1.10 to 2.83) were associated with higher odds of prevalence of hearing impairment. For the 10,046 participants without hearing loss at baseline, income quintile 1 versus quintile 5 (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.44, 95% CI = 1.33 to 1.56), ≤ year 11 versus ≥ bachelor’s degree (HR = 2.15, 95% CI = 1.98-2.34) blue-collar occupation versus white collar (HR = 1.15, 95% CI = 1.07 to 1.25) and most disadvantaged area quintile versus most advantaged quintile (HR = 1.49, 95% CI = 1.37 to 1.63) was positively associated with incident hearing impairment.

Conclusions: Lower individual-level and area-level SES was associated with an increased risk of prevalence and incidence of hearing impairment among working-age Australians. These findings are particularly concerning since working-age Australians are mostly not eligible for socially subsidized hearing-related health care in Australia. This lack of access to affordable hearing services could exacerbate the negative consequences of hearing impairment and increase social inequality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1322-1331
Number of pages10
JournalEar and Hearing
Volume44
Issue number6
Early online date1 May 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023

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