Finished | Hearing and human behaviour

The relationship of hearing loss with loneliness, social isolation, and psychosocial functioning in older people

Project Goals

How often you are in contact with other people and how many people you are in contact with (called social isolation) and how connected you feel to other people around you (called loneliness) can have a big impact on someone’s overall health, especially in elderly adults. Very little research has been done to understand if having a hearing loss or using hearing aids makes elderly adults more or less isolated from other people, or feel more or less lonely. We used data collected from a group of elderly adults (over 80 years of age) in Southeast Sydney who participated in the Sydney Memory and Ageing study to examine these questions.


Those elderly adults who reported that they had been diagnosed with a hearing loss were twice as likely to have higher levels of loneliness compared to those who had not. The greater the impact that those adults said their hearing difficulties had on their everyday lives, the higher the level of loneliness they experienced. A clinical measure of how severe their hearing loss was did not relate to their level of loneliness. A positive finding was that the elderly adults who reported regularly using hearing aids were two times more likely to have lower levels of loneliness than those who did not regularly use hearing aids.

The key messages from this study are that:

  • – hearing problems increase the risk of elderly adults feeling lonely
  • – the risk of loneliness increases if their hearing problems affect their ability to communicate with other people and take part in everyday activities with other people
  • – clinical measures of hearing loss (e.g. a hearing test) are not helpful in understanding how at risk an elderly adult is of loneliness because of their hearing problems
  • – using hearing aids regularly can reduce the risk of loneliness

It is important that elderly adults are supported to have good hearing health, such as access to regular hearing checks and hearing aids when appropriate. This research is a reminder that looking after their hearing doesn’t just help elderly adults to hear sound but can also improve their mental wellbeing.

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