Can Hearing Loss Affect Your Personality?

Can Hearing Loss Affect Your Personality? 

Peter Lucier, HIS

The effects of hearing loss are multifaceted. Chronically experiencing a reduced ability to hear clearly produces symptoms that take a toll on daily living. This includes strained communication which makes it challenging to engage in conversations. Effective communication is such a vital way that we navigate various aspects of life and sustain relationships so when communication is strained, the impact is significant. Not only are relationships, work-life, and hearing health affected but research shows that hearing loss can actually affect your personality as well. 

Research Linking Hearing Loss & Personality Changes 

A significant study that explores the impact of hearing loss on personality was conducted by researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Published in 2013 in the Journal of Personality, the study investigates both continuity and changes in personality among people with hearing loss. 

  • Study: the study involved examining 408 participants, ages 80-98, over a 6-year period. Researchers facilitated assessments (every two years) throughout the duration of the study which measured physical and mental health. Personality traits were also examined, traits including:
    • extraversion
    • introversion
    • outgoingness
    • and emotional stability. 
  • Findings: Researchers found that a substantial amount of the adults in the study became less extroverted and outgoing over time. The most consistent factor that was common among these adults was that they also had hearing loss. So hearing loss rather than changes in physical and cognitive health was strongly correlated with adults becoming less outgoing. 

In discussing these findings, Anne Ingeborg Berg, a researcher at the University of Gothenburg stated that, “hearing loss directly affects the quality of social situations. If the perceived quality of social interaction goes down, it may eventually affect whether and how we relate to others.” This suggests that the impact that hearing loss has on social life can lead to these personality changes as highlighted in the study. 

Impact of Hearing Loss on Social Life

Hearing loss presents various challenges to communication. Common symptoms like tinnitus (a buzzing or ringing noise in the ears), sounds being slurred or muffled, and a reduced capacity to distinguish individual words makes it difficult to engage with others. People with hearing loss often strain themselves to try to hear – asking others to repeat themselves, speak louder and/or slower, needing to move to a quieter space, lip reading, pretending to hear, etc. This results in feeling drained, missing parts of a conversation, and potentially even miscommunication. Others can feel like they are being ignored when in fact, people with hearing loss are simply trying to hear and follow along. This can be unpleasant for everyone involved which leads to people avoiding conversations altogether. 

This means participating less (or not at all) in social activities, avoiding gatherings, and spending less time with family and friends. Social withdrawal is a major effect of hearing loss which tends to be overlooked. This kind of isolation can significantly impact mental health by contributing to loneliness, depression, anxiety, and stress.  The University of Gothenburg study shows that social isolation can cause changes in personality. In the study, staying at home and isolating oneself contributed to people becoming less outgoing and more introverted. In addition to this impacting mental health, social withdrawal can also mean less physical engagement and cognitive stimulation. This can contribute to the development of other health conditions, compromising overall wellness and quality of life. 

Steps to Treat Hearing Loss 

Treating hearing loss is critical for not only alleviating symptoms but also for supporting all aspects of one’s health and well-being. The risk of experiencing personality changes can be drastically reduced (and avoided) by taking the steps to prioritize hearing health. 

The first step is to schedule an appointment for a hearing test with us, this test is noninvasive and painless. It involves measuring hearing in both ears which identifies any impairment, the degree, and specific type of hearing loss you could be experiencing. 

After your hearing needs are established, we will be able to make recommendations that effectively meet your specific hearing needs. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids which are small, electronic devices that are designed to provide ample hearing support. Hearing aids transform hearing health which improves daily life!

Contact us today to schedule an appointment.