A precision medicine tool to understand who responds best to hearing aids in late-life depression

Katharine K. Brewster, Sigal Zilcha-Mano, Meredith L. Wallace, Ana H. Kim, Patrick J. Brown, Steven P. Roose, Justin S. Golub, Jessica Galatioto, Megan Kuhlmey, Bret R. Rutherford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Accumulating evidence suggests that hearing loss (HL) treatment may benefit depressive symptoms among older adults with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), but the specific individual characteristics of those who stand to improve most are unknown. Methods: N = 37 patients ≥60 years with HL and MDD received either active or sham hearing aids in this 12-week double-blind randomized controlled trial. A combined moderator approach was utilized in the analysis in order to examine multiple different pretreatment individual characteristics to determine the specific qualities that predicted the best depressive symptom response to hearing aids. Pretreatment characteristics included: Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly (HHIE-S), pure tone average (PTA), speech reception threshold (SRT), Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB), cognition (Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status). Results: The analysis revealed a combined moderator, predicting greater improvement with active versus sham hearing aids, that had a larger effect size than any individual moderator (combined effect size [ES] = 0.49 [95% CI: 0.36, 0.76]). Individuals with worse hearing-related disability (HHIE-S: individual ES = −0.16), speech recognition (SRT: individual ES = −0.14), physical performance (SPPB: individual ES = 0.41), and language functioning (individual ES = 0.19) but with relatively less severe audiometric thresholds (PTA: individual ES = 0.17) experienced greater depressive symptom improvement with active hearing aids. Conclusions: Older adults with relatively worse HL-related, physical, and cognitive functioning may stand to benefit most from hearing aids. Given the large number of older adults experiencing HL and MDD, a non-invasive and scalable means of targeting those most likely to respond to interventions would be valuable.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberGPS5721
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • hearing aids
  • hearing loss
  • late life depression
  • personalized medicine
  • treatment moderators

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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