Some social effects of hearing loss are obvious. In addition to difficulties in hearing, a person with hearing loss may become less likely to participate in social activities, undergo more stress in social situations, and experience new challenges in their personal relationships. However, research suggests that the changes may run even deeper – indicating that hearing loss could cause an actual personality change.
This new information comes from a study conducted by researchers at the University of Gothenburg. In this study, researchers followed 400 individuals (ages 80-98) during a six-year period. Among the physical, social, mental, and personality changes the researchers observed was a change in extraversion. They noticed that individuals who were previously extroverted, or socially outgoing, experienced a decrease in extraversion over time.
In this study, the researchers also considered factors such as cognitive decline, physical conditions, and social obstacles. It appears that none of these factors can be tied to the decrease in extraversion. At this time, the only linking factor appears to be hearing loss. Although most people become less outgoing as they age, the results of the study indicate that this change is amplified in those with hearing loss.
It’s little wonder that people with hearing loss would become less outgoing. If they experience difficulty in communication during social activities due to hearing loss, it may become easier to skip the activity than to struggle to participate in conversations. Some people also find the topic of hearing loss and hearing aids to be embarrassing, further discouraging them from social situations.
At first glance, it may seem that a decrease in extraversion would only minimally affect a person’s social life. However, research shows that decreased extraversion can result in social isolation. In turn, social isolation, with a shortage of supportive social relationships, has been linked to increased mortality rates.
Furthermore, social isolation has been connected to a greater risk of mental illnesses, including major depression. As a person becomes less outgoing, they are also likely to experience weight issues and physical problems as they participate in less physical activity. The person may experience an earlier onset of cognitive decline as well as they lack brain stimulation that is normally provided in group social situations.
So, what can you do to prevent decreased extraversion and social isolation? Here are three simple tips on how to continue enjoying social events, even with hearing loss:
With today’s advanced technology, there is a hearing aid to fit every person. Various styles are available to match your preferences, and there is a device available for any type of hearing loss, from mild to severe. With a hearing aid, you will find it easier to continue participating in social activities and group settings.
If you are going to be involved in a group setting that may prove difficult with your hearing loss, you may want to tell your friends beforehand. Give them a basic understanding of your hearing loss and suggest ways to make communication easier.
If you know someone in your social group who has hearing loss, make it easy for them to participate in social activities and conversations. You can make communication easier by minimizing background noise, finding quiet places for conversations, and speaking directly and clearly.
If you believe you or a loved one may be experiencing hearing loss, we encourage you to contact our audiology office today. We are happy to help you find the solution you need to continue enjoying your social life.