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In terms of day-to-day life, the practical difficulties of hearing loss are obvious. However can it also have a negative influence on your personality? Surely, personality is something set in stone?
Not necessarily. A study from the University of Gothenburg indicated that hearing loss could actually have a substantial impact on the personality of the sufferer, particularly in old age.
Anne Ingeborg Berg, PhD, a researcher at the University’s Department of Psychology, said:
“To our knowledge, this is the first time a link between hearing and personality changes has been established.”
For six years, the researchers tracked both the physical and mental health of 400 seniors in their 80s and 90s. During that period, they looked for changes in key personality traits (such as extroversion).
The team was somewhat surprised to see that, out of a number of different influencing factors (chronic diseases suffered from, cognitive impairment, vision and hearing loss, the ability to perform activities of daily living, self-rated health measures), only hearing loss had any noticeable impact on how outgoing an individual was.
How does this impact actually occur?
It’s believed that it is simply the human need to really connect with people that leads to hearing loss having such a detrimental effect.
‘Hearing loss directly affects the quality of social situations,’ Ms Berg highlighted.
‘If the perceived quality of social interaction goes down, it may eventually affect whether and how we relate to others.’
If someone can’t communicate effectively, their self-esteem can decrease and they can become less likely to involve themselves in social interactions. Even people who used to be extroverted can still be affected, and choose to withdraw. Unfortunately, this can lead to isolation and the potential for loneliness.
The problem of isolation
Isolation can be a serious issue amongst the elderly, but also amongst all age groups. As recently as 2014, Britain was voted the loneliness capital of Europe, with only 58 per cent of Britain’s residents saying that they knew people in their community well.