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Change in loneliness after intervention with cochlear implants or hearing aids

Objective

To investigate the impact of hearing aid (HA) and cochlear implant (CI) use on loneliness in adults.

Study Design

Prospective observational cohort study.

Methods

One hundred and thirteen adults, aged ≥ 50 years, with postlingual hearing loss and receiving routine clinical care at a tertiary academic medical center, were evaluated with the University of California at Los Angeles Loneliness Scale before and 6 and 12 months after intervention with HAs or CIs. Change in score was assessed using linear mixed effect models adjusted for age; gender; education; and history of hypertension, diabetes, and smoking.

Results

Significant improvements in loneliness scores were observed in CI users from baseline to 6 months (−3.79 [95% confidence interval): −5.73, −1.85], P <.001) and baseline to 12 months (−3.26 [95% confidence interval: −5.66, −0.87], P =.007). We did not observe a significant improvement in loneliness scores in HA users from baseline to 6 months (−0.83 [95% confidence interval: −2.68, 1.02], P =.381) or baseline to 12 months (−0.34 [95% confidence interval: −2.77, −2.10], P = .007). The most substantial increases were observed in individuals with the lowest baseline scores.

Conclusion

Treatment of hearing loss with CIs results in a significant reduction in loneliness symptoms. This improvement was not observed with HAs. We observed differential effects of treatment depending on the baseline loneliness score, with the greatest improvements observed in individuals with the most loneliness symptoms at baseline.

Level of Evidence

2b. Laryngoscope, 2017



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