Characteristics of Adults With Unrecognized Hearing Loss

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American journal of audiology


Purpose Early detection of hearing loss is important for providing support and intervention for adults with age-related hearing loss. However, many older adults have hearing loss that is unidentified. Because they do not present the problem at health care settings, there is a dearth of research on people with unrecognized hearing loss (URHL). This study elucidates differences between older adults with normal hearing, adults with recognized hearing loss (RHL), and adults with URHL. Method Participants included 130 adults, ages 55-85 years. Of these, 39 had hearing in the normal range (HNR), 61 had RHL, and 30 reported HNR but failed a hearing screen (i.e., URHL). Participants completed the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS; Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988 ) and a battery of neuropsychological tests. Results The URHL group reported more positive affectivity than the HNR and RHL groups on the PANAS. In addition, the URHL group was significantly older and more likely to be male compared to the HNR group. Importantly, age was not significantly correlated with PANAS. Positive affectivity accounted for unique variance in group membership even after accounting for age, gender, physical health, and cognitive health. Conclusions Older adults with URHL have more positive affectivity than older adults with HNR or RHL. This group may be prone to downplaying their difficulties; consequently, they may need to experience larger hearing deficits before seeking help. The findings highlight the need for research investigating the effectiveness of psychoeducation on the importance of formal hearing assessment verses relying on self-assessment in facilitating early and effective intervention among people with URHL.

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