Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2019 Jul - Aug;83:75-80. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2019.03.004. Epub 2019 Mar 7.
Hearing-impaired elderly people have smaller social networks: A population-based aging study.
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Hearing impairment (HI) is a major global health concern. In addition, social networks are important for healthy aging. This study aimed to examine the association between HI and social relationships.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: This study was conducted by the National Institute for Longevity Sciences as part of its Longitudinal Study of Aging with 1176 Japanese participants aged 60 years or older (mean age 71.0 ± 7.4). The convoy model was used to evaluate participants' network size. A pure-tone average hearing level (HL) of 0.5, 1, 2, and 4 kHz in the better ear >25 dB HL was defined as HI. Multivariate analysis was performed to assess the relationship between HI and the network size, adjusting for age, gender, years of education, presence of depressive symptoms, and higher-level functional capacity score.
RESULTS: The mean network sizes across the three circles of the convoy model differed significantly by HI status (18.7 ± 0.4 in the no-HI group vs 17.0 ± 0.5
in the HI group, p = 0.003). In particular, the number of non-kin in the outer circle was significantly less in the HI group (4.1 ± 0.2 vs 3.3 ± 0.3, p = 0.004).
DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS: The social network size was significantly smaller in the HI group. The outer circle of people to whom the individual feels less close
and the number of non-kin were related to the presence of HI. Therefore, HI may be associated with elderly people's social relationships.