Hearing management

Updated 09 September 2016

Hearing loss can make elderly feel more isolated

Swedish researchers cautioned that hearing loss could affect older people's well-being. Therefore, diagnosing hearing loss and treating the condition should be supported.

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Many elderly people tend to be less outgoing the older they get, but those with hearing loss may become even more socially isolated, according to a new study.

Researchers in Sweden cautioned that hearing loss could affect older people's well-being. Therefore, diagnosing hearing loss and treating the condition with hearing aids should be supported, they explained in a recent issue of the Journal of Personality.

"Our previous studies have shown that outgoing individuals are happier with their lives," said study author Anne Ingeborg Berg, licensed psychologist and researcher at the department of psychology at the University of Gothenburg.

"It is hypothesised that an outgoing personality reflects a positive approach to life, but it also probably shows how important it is for most people to share both joy and sadness with others," she said in a university news release.

"Even if we can't conclude anything about causal relationships, we can guess that the link between hearing loss and social withdrawal forms a potential threat to older people's well-being," Berg stated.

Link between hearing and personality changes

The six-year study involved 400 people aged 80 to 98 years. The participants' physical and mental health was examined every two years. The investigators also assessed aspects of the seniors' personalities, such as how outgoing they were.

The study found that the participants who suffered hearing loss were less outgoing – even if they remained emotionally stable. The researchers pointed out that they did not find a connection between increased social isolation and physical or mental impairments, or problems the older people had in finding social activities. They concluded that hearing loss is what made the older people less outgoing.

"To our knowledge, this is the first time a link between hearing and personality changes has been established in longitudinal studies," Berg noted in the news release.

"Surprisingly, we did not find that declining overall health and functional capacity make people less outgoing. But hearing loss directly affects the quality of social situations," explained Berg. "If the perceived quality of social interaction goes down, it may eventually affect whether and how we relate to others."

Read more:
Poor vision can isolate seniors
Social exclusion tied to risky gambling

Mental problems in teen recipients


Image: Sad elderly woman from Shutterstock

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Francis Slabber is a Speech & Language Therapist and Audiologist who has owned and run The Hearing Clinic in Wynberg, Cape Town for the last 17 years. Francis and her team have extensive experience in fitting and supplying hearing aids as well as assistive living devices. Francis has served as the Western Cape Chairperson for the South African Association of Audiologists for three years and has given many talks on the topic of hearing loss and amplification. The Hearing Clinic has a special interest in adult and geriatric hearing impairment, hearing aid fittings and hearing rehabilitation.

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