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The Gerontologist 47:633-641 (2007)
© 2007 The Gerontological Society of America

Examination of the Relationship Among Hearing Impairment, Linguistic Communication, Mood, and Social Engagement of Residents in Complex Continuing-Care Facilities

Peter Brink, MA1 and Michael Stones, PhD2

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Peter Brink, Health Studies and Gerontology, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada.

Earlier evidence was not conclusive about whether hearing loss is associated with mood (i.e., depressive symptoms and anhedonia) and social engagement (i.e., reduced psychosocial involvement and reduced activity levels) in elderly residents living in complex continuing-care facilities. If hearing impairment results in poor mood and lower levels of social engagement, then remedying hearing impairment might result in a higher quality of life. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine if functional hearing impairment in continuing-care residents is associated with mood and social engagement. Design and Methods: This study included all residents in Ontario who were admitted to complex continuing-care facilities between April 2000 and March 2001. Through the Canadian Institute of Health Information, we gathered health information by using the Minimum Data Set 2.0 questionnaire.  Results: The results were consistent with our hypothesized direct effect of functional hearing impairment on mood. Path analyses showed that hearing impairment impairs linguistic communication and that impaired linguistic communication is related to lower levels of mood and social engagement. Implications: This study adds to the literature supporting an association between hearing impairment and mood. It suggests that remedying hearing impairment may lower levels of poor mood in residents of complex continuing-care facilities. This, in turn, may reduce the negative effects of hearing impairment on social engagement and increase the quality of life for residents of these facilities. This study also suggests that questionnaires used to assess hearing, such as the Minimum Data Set 2.0, are suitable for early identification of hearing problems and may be used to refer residents to audiological services.

Key Words: Hearing impairment • Function • Social engagement • Long-term care

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All GSA journals Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Copyright © 2007 by The Gerontological Society of America.