Effects of Hearing Status on Loneliness and Depression in Older Adults

Pronk, M., Deeg, D. J. H., Smits, C., van Tilburg, T. G., Kuilk, D. J., Festen, J. M., & Kramer, S. E. (2011). Prospective effects of hearing status on loneliness and depression in older persons: Identification of subgroups. International Journal of Audiology, 50, 887-896.

Hearing loss, one of the most common chronic conditions in older adults, has been associated with a variety of social and emotional difficulties. These include anxiety, perceived loss of control, mood changes, feelings of frustration, and low self-worth. Previous research investigating the association between hearing loss and loneliness and depression have produced inconsistent results. Pronk and colleagues (2011) suggested that this may be due in part to the failure of these studies to investigate the effect of such variables as age, gender, socioeconomic status, cognitive status, partner status, and hearing-aid use. Their data came from a large, longitudinal study of Dutch adults, who were assessed for these variables as well as loneliness and depression. Results showed no association between hearing loss and depression. However, hearing loss did predict loneliness, but only for two specific subgroups: men and non-hearing-aid users. The authors suggested that men may use fewer non-verbal communication strategies than women and thus may have greater difficulty interacting socially with a hearing loss. They concluded that interventions to prevent loneliness and increase hearing-aid use may be effective in reducing the social isolation of this population.

Making Connections

Gender differences
Older adults

Media Supplement

This APA Monitor article , describes psychologist David Myers’ campaign for hearing loops, a life-changing technology for people with hearing loss. Click here to see Myers’ website on hearing loops.