Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name





Barbara E. Weinstein

Committee Members

Brett Martin

Subject Categories

Speech Pathology and Audiology


Self-reported hearing difficulties, hearing loss, older adults, social isolation, loneliness, de Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale, UCLA Loneliness Questionnaire, HHIE


Hearing loss is known to affect communicative ability and has been associated with poor health-related outcomes such as impaired cognition, increased risk for falls, and psychotic manifestations. Social isolation and loneliness are also widely recognized to negatively impact mental and physical health. The purpose of this systematic review is to review literature that explores a relationship between hearing loss with and/or without self-reported hearing difficulties and social isolation and social and emotional loneliness in older adults with hearing loss ranging from mild to profound. The goal is to determine whether there is a direct relationship between subjective and/or objective hearing loss and subjective and/or objective social isolation and whether social isolation and/or social and emotional loneliness plays a mediating role in poor health-related outcomes that have been associated with hearing loss.

The systematic review of the literature on this topic focused on studies that satisfied specific design criteria. Only studies that assessed the relationship between hearing status and social isolation and/or loneliness among participants aged 50 years or older with perceived or measured hearing loss ranging from mild to profound met the inclusion criteria for this review. Database searches of refereed, peer-reviewed journals were conducted. Relevant search strings applied to the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied-Health Literature (CINAHL), Academic Search Premier, PubMed, Google Scholar, MEDLINE, and psycINFO databases identified studies to be included in this review. Additionally, manual searches of the references of applicable articles were also conducted. Nineteen studies met a priori criteria for inclusion in this review.

A thorough qualitative assessment of the research showed that there is a strong association between hearing loss and self-perceived hearing difficulties with social isolation and loneliness in the older adult. This review concludes that there is an agreement among researchers that hearing status is associated with social isolation and loneliness. However, inconsistencies in reporting on an age and gender effect of individuals with reduced hearing abilities on social isolation and/or loneliness is observed. This observation points to a need for investigations that employ more controlled studies in order to confirm a causal effect of hearing status on social isolation and/or loneliness and how variables of age, gender, and intervention strategies mediate the above-mentioned psychosocial outcomes.