What do existing publications indicate about the connections between hearing loss, social isolation, and loneliness in the pediatric population?
Explore This IssueAugust 2021
Most existing studies have found that hearing impairment results in a higher prevalence of social isolation and loneliness in the pediatric population, although lack of uniform assessment tools precludes a definitive association.
BACKGROUND: An estimated 20% to 40% of hearing-impaired adults report intermittent loneliness. This population also experiences greater social isolation, which has been linked to accelerated cognitive and physical decline. Although childhood and adolescence are developmentally critical times, there is little research on social isolation and loneliness within these populations.
STUDY DESIGN: Scoping review and meta-analysis.
SETTING: Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga.
SYNOPSIS: Researchers included 33 studies on hearing-impaired children and adolescents (median average age 14 years) for their scoping review. The most common measurement tool for assessing loneliness was the Asher Children’s Loneliness and Social Dissatisfaction Scale (60.0%). Interviews, questionnaires, and observation were used to assess social isolation. Sixty percent of the studies that investigated the loneliness/hearing loss relationship found a positive association; 64.7% of those that investigated social isolation found that participants experienced it more than the general pediatric population. Eight of 11 articles found that pediatric patients with a hearing impairment experienced worse self-esteem or lower confidence than those who did not have a hearing impairment. Difficulty communicating was the most frequently mentioned quality leading to loneliness and social isolation. Several studies showed trends toward avoidance of large groups, hearing individuals, and noisy or poorly lit environments. Despite data showing an overall theme of pediatric hearing loss leading to loneliness and social isolation, there was not a clear and definitive association between the two. The authors attribute this unclear association partially to lack of both a standardized assessment tool and an established metric for social isolation. Study limitations included an assumption of equivalent evidence among studies.
CITATION: Patel SR, Bouldin E, Tey CS, et al. Social isolation and loneliness in the hearing-impaired pediatric population: A scoping review. Laryngoscope. 2021;131:1869-1875.