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Personality Changes With Hearing Loss

Update Date: Mar 31, 2014 06:17 PM EDT
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Hearing loss can lead to personality changes, according to a new study.

New research involving 400 individuals between 80 to 98 years old over a six-year period revealed people became less outgoing as they aged.

However, researchers were unable to link the observed changes to physical and cognitive impairments or to difficulties findings social activities in aging. Researchers said that only factor that could be associated to reduced extraversion was hearing loss.

"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," Anne Ingeborg Berg, PhD, licensed psychologist and researcher at the Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg, said in a news release.

Researchers assessed the participants in terms of physical and mental measures as well as personality aspects every two years.

The findings revealed that participants became less outgoing even when their emotional stability remained constant over the period.

Researchers said the latest findings provide interesting insight into personality development in later life, and highlight the importance of recognizing and treating hearing loss among seniors.

Researchers noted that using hearing aids did not affect the correlation found in the study, suggesting that there is a need for support in the use of aids like hearing devices.

"Our 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," said Berg.

The findings are published in the Journal of Personality.

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