Hearing impairment among ageing adults in Northern Finland: Prevalence, incidence and risk factors

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Leena Palotie auditorium 101A (Aapistie 5 A). Remote access: https://oulu.zoom.us/j/61268009448?pwd=UTNacEpycks4d2R3ZkkzZmF0dWRqUT09

Topic of the dissertation

Hearing impairment among ageing adults in Northern Finland: Prevalence, incidence and risk factors

Doctoral candidate

Licentiate of Medicine Venla Lohi

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Medicine, PEDEGO-Research unit

Subject of study

Otorhinolaryngology, audiology


Professor Juha Silvola , University of Oslo


Professor Martti Sorri, University of Oulu

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Prevalence, incidence and risk factors of age-related hearing impairment in Northern Finland

Hearing deterioration is common among ageing adults. Hearing impairment has been associated with worse health status, psychosocial problems, depression, and even dementia. Age-related hearing impairment cannot be cured but hearing rehabilitation with hearing aids is cost-effective and improves the quality of life. When the proportion of older individuals is increasing in the population, the number of hearing impaired is increasing and this creates an increased need for resources for hearing health care.

The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of hearing impairment and the deterioration of hearing in 13-year follow-up in a population-based sample, collected from the city of Oulu and surroundings. In addition, risk factors for hearing impairment were studied, especially the impact of cardiovascular diseases on hearing impairment. In one part of this study, the presence of hearing impairment and self-reported hearing difficulties were investigated in a Saami population of the northernmost Finland.

The overall prevalence of HI increased from 26.7% to 70.3% among the Oulu sample during the 13-year follow-up. No association between CVD and HI was observed in the baseline study or between CVD and hearing threshold changes in the follow-up study. Heavy smoking was found to be a risk factor for HI in both men and women. Obesity and lower socioeconomic class were risk factors for HI in men only. The overall incidence rate for HI was 45.8 per 1000 person years, and the 13-year cumulative incidence was 60.9%. Among Saami, both measured (37.2%) and self-reported HI (46.9%) were common.

These results indicate that HI is highly prevalent and incidental among older adults. The prevalence and incidence of HI are higher among men, but there were no significant differences between men and women with respect to hearing threshold changes. These results can be used when planning hearing health care in the future.
Last updated: 1.3.2023