BACKGROUND: Hearing difficulties constitute the most common cause of disability globally. Yet, studies on people with hearing difficulties regarding socio-economic status (SES), work, long-term unemployment, sickness absence, and disability pension are scarce. The aim of the present study was to investigate the main income sources of men and women of working ages with and without self-reported hearing difficulties and associations with gender, age, SES, type of living area, and country of birth.
METHODS: A cross-sectional population-based study, using information on self-reported hearing difficulties and SES of 19 045 subjects aged 20-64 years participating in Statistics Sweden's annual Living Conditions Surveys in any of the years 2004 through 2008. The information was linked to a nationwide database containing data on demographics and income sources. Odds ratios (ORs) and their 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated, using binary logistic regression analysis.
RESULTS: Hearing difficulties increased with age and were more common in men (age-adjusted OR: 1.42 (95% CI: 1.30-1.56)) with an overall prevalence of 13.1% in men and 9.8% in women. Using working men as reference, the OR of having hearing difficulties was 1.23 (0.94-1.60) in men with unemployment benefits and 1.36 (1.13-1.65) in men with sickness benefits or disability pension, when adjusting for age and SES. The corresponding figures in women were 1.59 (1.17-2.16) and 1.73 (1.46-2.06). The OR of having sickness benefits or disability pension in subjects with hearing difficulties was 1.36 (1.12-1.64) in men and 1.70 (1.43-2.01) in women, when adjusting for age and SES and using men and women with no hearing difficulties as reference.
CONCLUSIONS: Hearing difficulties were more prevalent in men. After adjustment with age and SES as well as with type of living area and country of birth, a significant association with unemployment benefits was found only in women, and the associations with long-term sickness absence and disability pension tended to be stronger in women.
2012. Vol. 12