“The High Price of Loneliness,” a 2012 New York Times article, opens with this: “Loneliness stings at any age. But in older people, it can have serious health consequences, raising the risks of an earlier-than-expected death and the loss of physical functioning.”

The article went on to discuss a six-year University of California, San Francisco study measuring the impact of loneliness on people 60 and older. Published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the study concluded that loneliness was a predictor of functional decline (challenges with bathing, dressing, eating, getting up, etc.) and death. In the study, participants who said they were lonely were 45 percent more likely to die than seniors who said they weren’t lonely over the course of the six-year study.

Hearing loss and loneliness are often linked

It’s not hard to understand how hearing loss can lead to feelings of loneliness. Humans are social creatures, and if communication becomes challenging, those with hearing loss may choose to minimise interactions, opt out of invitations, and socially isolate themselves. And while social isolation and loneliness aren’t the same*, the former is a well-known precursor to the latter.

New study finds hearing aid use can be a buffer against loneliness

In 2015, researchers from New York and Austria wanted to see if wearing hearing aids reduced the feelings of loneliness experienced by older adults with hearing loss. The results of their study were published in the March 2016 American Journal of Audiology.

In the study, the researchers noted “a significant decline in perceptions of loneliness following 4 to 6 weeks of hearing aid use,” and concluded that “hearing aid use appears to be a buffer against the experience of loneliness.”

The study bodes well for seniors whose hearing loss may be contributing to social isolation and feelings of loneliness, as it shows that treating hearing loss with hearing aids reduces feelings of loneliness, which in turn could have a positive effect on their mental and physical health.

Know a senior who could benefit physically and socially from hearing loss treatment? You can help by recommending they see someone. Or, better yet, offer to do it for them: “Let’s get our hearing checked together next week.”

Want to read the New York Times article, “The High Price of Loneliness”? Click here.
Want to read the University of California study, “Loneliness in Older Persons”? Click here.
Want a synopsis of the 2015 study, “Relating Hearing Aid Use to Social and Emotional Loneliness in Older Adults”? Click here.

*Unlike social isolation, which is objective (you either have and maintain social connections or you don’t), loneliness is subjective. Loneliness is a feeling. And it’s a feeling one can have even if they’re married or surrounded by others — just as it’s possible to live alone, yet not feel lonely.

This post was originally published on Starkey’s website here on 14 November, 2016

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