Hearing Problems Make Senior
Citizens More Introverted, Withdrawn
Study points to the importance of
acknowledging and treating hearing loss among the elderly
March 31, 2014 – A study of senior
citizens between the ages of 80 and 98 reports that impaired hearing
causes some serious social problems. Old people have a natural tendency
to become less outgoing as they age, but it they have hearing problems,
this condition becomes even worse.
New research from the University of
Gothenburg shows that this change in personality is amplified among
people with impaired hearing. The findings, the researchers say,
emphasize the importance of acknowledging and treating hearing loss in
the elderly population.
They studied 400 individuals 80-98
years old over a six-year period. Every two years, the subjects were
assessed in terms of physical and mental measures, as well as
personality aspects such as extraversion, which reflects the inclination
to be outgoing, and emotional stability.
The results show that even if the
emotional stability remained constant over the period, the participants
became less outgoing.
Interestingly, the researchers were
not able to connect the observed changes to physical and cognitive
impairments or to age-related difficulties in finding social activities.
The only factor that could be linked to reduced extraversion was hearing
‘To our knowledge, this is the
first time a link between hearing and personality changes has been
established in longitudinal studies,” says Anne Ingeborg Berg, PhD,
licensed psychologist and researcher at the Department of Psychology,
University of Gothenburg.
“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. If the perceived quality of social interaction goes down, it
may eventually affect whether and how we relate to others,’
The study yields interesting
knowledge about personality development late in life, and also points to
the importance of acknowledging and treating hearing loss among the
The utilization of hearing aids did
not affect the correlation found, which suggests that there is a need
for support in the use of aids such as hearing devices.
“Our previous studies have shown
that outgoing individuals are happier with their lives. It is
hypothesized 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,” says Berg.
“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
The study, conducted by Anne
Ingeborg Berg and Boo Johansson from the
ADA - Gero Group,
Department of Psychology,
University of Gothenburg, was published in the February 2014 issue of
the Journal of Personality.
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