Poor hearing confines older adults to their homes

August 6, 2014, Academy of Finland

Vision and hearing problems reduce the active participation of older people in various events and activities. This was observed in two studies carried out by the Gerontology Research Center.

Impaired vision and hearing make it difficult to interact in social situations. However, social relationships and situations in which there is an opportunity to meet and interact with other people are important for older adults' quality of life.

"Sensory impairments are common among older adults. About one third of Europeans aged 50 and older were found to have impairment in hearing, vision, or both sensory functions. Sensory problems are markedly more common amongst older age groups," Anne Viljanen says.

"We found that with hearing problems participate in group activities and meet their friends less often than those with good hearing, Tuija Mikkola says. Group activities are challenging for older people with hearing problems, as they often have a great deal of difficulty conversing with several people in a noisy environment. The results also showed that people with hearing difficulties perceived their ability to live their lives as they would like as poorer than those with good hearing."

Tuija Mikkola's study is part of a broader LISPE (Life-Space Mobility in Old Age) study. In the LISPE study, 848 community-dwelling persons aged 75 to 90 years were interviewed. Almost half of the subjects reported some difficulties and one in ten reported major difficulties when conversing with another person in the presence of noise.

Anne Viljanen's study was carried out in collaboration with a research group from the University of Southern Denmark. The data gathered by the SHARE (Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe) project includes 11 European countries. More than 27,000 persons 50 years and older from the Nordic countries, Central Europe and the Mediterranean countries participated in SHARE. SHARE did not include Finnish participants.

"The study evaluated the prevalence of hearing and vision problems and whether these sensory impairments are linked to social activity. People with vision or hearing problems were less socially active than those without sensory problems, and those with both and hearing problems were least socially active," Anne Viljanen says.

Rehabilitation is important

Anne Viljanen and Tuija Mikkola think that preventive and rehabilitative measures are important in order to support with sensory impairments in living socially active lives. It is possible to compensate an impairment of one sense to some extent, for example people with are more likely to use visual cues of speech. Thus, it is important to converse face-to-face with people with impaired hearing as it helps facilitate lip-reading. Concomitant hearing and visual impairment also requires special skills from healthcare and rehabilitation personnel, as well as close collaboration between different healthcare specialists.

Explore further: Twin hearing study helps discover gene that influences hearing ability

More information: Mikkola TM, Portegijs E, Rantakokko M, Gagné J-P, Rantanen T, Viljanen A." Association of self-reported hearing difficulty to objective and perceived participation outside the home in older community-dwelling adults." Journal of Aging and Health. In Press. DOI: 10.1177/0898264314538662

Viljanen A, Törmäkangas T, Vestergaard S, Andersen-Ranberg K. "Dual sensory loss and social participation in older Europeans." European Journal of Aging 2014; 11: 155-167. DOI: 10.1007/s10433-013-0291-7

Related Stories

Twin hearing study helps discover gene that influences hearing ability

August 5, 2014
The largest ever genome wide association study on hearing ability has identified the salt-inducible kinase 3 (SIK3) gene as a key influencer in how well we can hear, particularly at high frequencies. This significant new ...

Hearing loss affects old people's personality

March 31, 2014
As people approach old age, they generally become less outgoing. New research from the University of Gothenburg shows that this change in personality is amplified among people with impaired hearing. The findings emphasize ...

Only one fifth of people with hearing problems wear a hearing aid

March 18, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Just a fifth of people with hearing problems wear a hearing aid, a study by The University of Manchester has found.

Hearing loss tied to depression in study

March 7, 2014
(HealthDay)—Hearing loss is associated with depression among American adults, especially women and those younger than age 70, according to new research.

Researcher works to increase hearing-aid use among adults with hearing impairments

July 15, 2013
Nearly half of individuals who are prescribed hearing aids do not wear the devices, previous research has shown. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has received a fellowship that will help her continue her work to increase ...

Diabetic patients have higher prevalence of hearing impairment

November 14, 2012
Patients with diabetes have a significantly higher prevalence of hearing impairment than patients without diabetes, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology ...

Recommended for you

Placental accumulation of flame retardant chemical alters serotonin production in rats

January 22, 2018
A North Carolina State University-led research team has shown a connection between exposure to a widely used flame retardant chemical mixture and disruption of normal placental function in rats, leading to altered production ...

Marijuana use does not lower chances of getting pregnant

January 22, 2018
Marijuana use—by either men or women—does not appear to lower a couple's chances of getting pregnant, according to a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

The Black Smurf
not rated yet Aug 06, 2014
I guess it doesn't occur to anyone that hearing aids are the last frontier in terms of not-covered-by-insurance price gouging?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.