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Odds of auditory hallucinations high in patients with hearing impairment

14 Apr 2018

Patients with hearing impairment commonly present with auditory hallucinations that appear to increase with the severity of hearing impairment, a study has found.

A total of 1,007 adults were referred for audiometric testing for the presence of hallucination. Presence and severity of hearing impairment were evaluated using mean air conduction thresholds from the most recent pure tone audiometry.

Of the patients, 829 had hearing impairment. Auditory hallucinations in the previous 4 weeks were recorded with greater frequency in the hearing-impaired than in the nonimpaired group (16.2 percent vs 5.8 percent; p<0.001). Specifically, patients with hearing impairment were three times as likely as those without the condition to present with auditory hallucinations (odds ratio, 3.2; 95 percent CI, 1.6–6.2).

Moreover, the prevalence of auditory hallucinations significantly increased with increasing severity of impairment, with rates reaching 24 percent in the most profoundly impaired group (p<0.001). Each dB of impairment in the best ear was associated with a 1.02-fold increase in the corrected odds of hallucination presence.

Auditory hallucinations mainly comprised voices (51 percent), music (36 percent), and doorbells or telephones (24 percent).

In light of the present data, researchers called for the implementation of hearing impairment within the differential diagnosis of auditory hallucinations, especially because mental healthcare professionals do not systemically inquire into the hearing function of patients presenting with auditory hallucinations in current practice. This is very important as hearing impairment may be a potential treatable factor in hallucinations.

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