Hearing management

Updated 30 November 2017

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.


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:
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Social exclusion tied to risky gambling

Mental problems in teen recipients

Image: Sad elderly woman from Shutterstock


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Hearing Expert

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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