A new study from researchers at the University of Gothenburg finds difficulty hearing may affect the personalities of older adults.
The researchers studied 400 individuals 80-98 years old over a six-year period. Every two years, the study participants 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. The researchers were not able to connect the observed changes to physical and cognitive impairments or to age-related difficulties finding social activities, which is how they identified hearing loss as a factor.
“To our knowledge, this is the first time a link between hearing and personality changes has been established in longitudinal studies. 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,” says Anne Ingeborg Berg, PhD, a psychologist and researcher at the Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg.
The use of hearing aids did not affect the correlation found between hearing loss and personality changes, which suggests that there many older adults may need help using hearing devices such as hearing aids, according to the researchers.
The study was published in the Journal of Personality.