There’s no question that everyone has their own views on aging. Some people believe they’ll be healthy, independent and content in their older years. Others worry that they’ll end up alone with no one to care for them.
If you fall into the latter group, it may also affect your perception about your hearing and mental abilities.
In a new study, researchers examined three variables to uncover the connection. These included views on aging, self-perceptions of one’s ability to hear and remember, and the actual performance of both functions.
The researchers administered standard hearing tests to 301 adults. All of them were between the ages of 56 and 96.
Next, the participants completed a series of recall tasks to test their memory. They viewed a series of 15 words on a computer screen and listened to a different list of words on headphones. Then, they then wrote down as many words as they could remember.
A third test required them to listen to and repeat a list of five words, and then recall them after a five-minute delay.
Afterward, the subjects responded to questions and statements about how they perceive their own hearing and memory abilities. For example, they agreed or disagreed with statements such as: “I am good at remembering names,” or “I can easily have a conversation on the telephone”.
Finally, the researchers asked the participants to imagine 15 scenarios and rate their concerns about each based on age.
In one scenario, the participants imagined they were involved in a car accident in which it was unclear who was at fault. How worried they would be about being blamed for the accident because of their age?
They were also asked how much they worried about being alone as they got older, losing their independence, becoming more forgetful, and finding contentment in their lives.
“Those who held negative views about getting older and believed they had challenges with their abilities to hear and remember things, also did poorly on the hearing and memory tests,” said lead author Alison Chasteen.
“Those feelings are often rooted in stereotypes about getting older and comments made by those around them that their hearing and memory are failing. So, we need to take a deeper and broader approach to understanding the factors that influence their daily lives,” she adds.
Chasteen recommends educating older people about ways in which they can influence their aging experience. This includes providing them with training exercises to enhance their cognitive and physical performance. And just as importantly, dispelling stereotypes about aging.
SOURCE: Stereotypes around aging can negatively impact memory and hearing. Press Release. University of Toronto via EurekAlert. Dec 2015.