Nearly 17 percent of U.S. adults experience some type of hearing loss in their lifetime, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
To explore how hearing loss can affect a person’s personality and mood, a new study from the University of Gothenburg revealed some interesting results. Researchers followed 400 people between the ages of 80 and 98 for six years. They analyzed each person’s physical and mental abilities, along with their personality levels every two years. They found that most became less outgoing and linked this trait to the loss of hearing in particular participants.
This was one of the first instances where a link between hearing and personality changes has been established in longitudinal studies. Surprisingly, the study did not find that declining overall health and functional capacity make people less outgoing. However, 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.
Researchers hope their results help stress the importance of addressing hearing loss earlier and helping those affected get treatment as soon as hearing loss starts. The study results, published in the Journal of Personality, also support the use of hearing aids as an intervention and treatment.
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. 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 wellbeing.