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J Am Acad Audiol. 2012 Oct;23(9):697-711. doi: 10.3766/jaaa.23.9.4.

Do older adults have social lifestyles that place fewer demands on hearing?

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Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Iowa, IA, USA.



Listening demand, or auditory lifestyle, is an important factor that needs to be considered when selecting a hearing aid and specific amplification features. Although elderly adults often report having fewer listening demands, auditory lifestyles of people in different age groups have not been objectively quantified and compared. Although it is assumed that the social lifestyles of older adults, e.g., retirement, place fewer demands on hearing, this assumption has not been examined empirically.


The purposes of the current study were to (1) objectively characterize and compare the auditory lifestyle of younger and older adults with hearing impairment and (2) examine the relationships between age, social lifestyle, and auditory lifestyle.


This is a nonexperimental study using a correlational design.


Twenty-seven adults with bilateral hearing impairment aged 40-88 yr were recruited and served as subjects.


To objectively quantify auditory lifestyle, participants carried noise dosimeters to measure sound levels in their daily lives for 1 wk. To help interpret the dosimeter data, participants used paper-and-pencil journals to describe their listening activities and environments. The auditory lifestyle was also subjectively quantified by the Auditory Lifestyle and Demand Questionnaire (ALDQ). Three self-report inventories were used to characterize participants' social lifestyles: Social Network Index, Welin Activity Scale, and Social Convoy Questionnaire.


A total of 1,267 journal entries covering 2,032 hr of dosimeter recordings were obtained from participants for analyses. Although younger and older participants reported spending comparable time in a given category of listening event, the dosimeter-measured sound level was higher for younger listeners. For auditory lifestyle quantified by dosimeter, correlation analyses revealed that older age was associated with lower Social Network Index scores (smaller social networks) and fewer listening demands. Regression models further indicated that the Social Network Index score more accurately predicted listening demand than age. Finally, path analysis suggested that the effect of age on listening demand was mediated by the Social Network Index score. Self-report auditory lifestyle measured by the ALDQ was not associated with age and social lifestyle.


The results indicate that older listeners tend to encounter quieter listening situations than younger listeners. The data are also consistent with the hypothesis that older adults have less active social lifestyles that place fewer demands on hearing. Therefore, the current study suggests the important role of social lifestyle in listening demand and the need to consider this factor in clinical management of hearing loss.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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