For years, researchers and practitioners have speculated that hearing impairment increases social isolation among older adults. We already know that as we age, our personality changes, but recent research highlights that these personality changes are heightened if the subject is hearing impaired. These new insights into the relationship between hearing loss, personality changes, and social isolation can raise awareness of hearing loss and the need for acknowledgement and treatment over time.
The research study, conducted by scientists at the University of Gothenburg, centered on subjects aged 80-98. These 400 individuals were tested every two years over a six-year period. The test focused on emotional stability and social interactions, among other traits. Results indicate that hearing loss intensified any sense of existing social isolation.
Emotionally-stable aging adults became less outgoing over time, but if hearing loss was added to the equation, individuals became even less extroverted. Anne Ingeborg Berg, a researcher on the project, says”… 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.”
These results highlight the need to acknowledge and treat hearing loss among aging adults. Personality traits change throughout the aging process; research indicates that being extroverted tends to lead to happier and healthier lives. When our well-being is negatively affected by hearing loss, there is an opportunity for increased support and treatment.