Hearing Impairment and the Spouse

Hearing Impairment and the Spouse

November 20, 2009 In the News

Scarinci, Worrall, and Hickson (2009) developed a unique tool (perhaps the first of its kind) to measure the spouse's disability and functioning in older couples in which only one person has hearing impairment. The 27-item questionnaire is called the Significant Other Scale for Hearing Disability (SOS-HEAR) and is used to assess the "third-party disability" in spouses of older people with hearing loss.

The SOS-HEAR was completed by 100 spouses of people with mild-to-moderate (41 dB) hearing impairment (22 males and 78 females). The average length of the participating couple's relationship was approximately 42 years. Ninety-two percent of all partners with hearing loss have sought professional help, of those, approximately two-thirds were fitted with hearing aids and less than half wore their hearing aids more than one hour per day.

Factor analysis revealed, explored, and measured six factors with regard to third-party disability and functioning via the SOS-HEAR. 

  • Factor 1 is communication changes. The highest loaded item of Factor 1
    is "I have to repeat myself often."
  • Factor 2 is communicative burden. The highest loaded item of Factor 2 is
    "I have to answer the phone for him/her."
  • Factor 3 is relationship changes. The highest loaded item of Factor 3 is
    "My partner's hearing difficulties have an effect on our intimate/physical relationship."
  • Factor 4 is going out and socializing. The highest loaded item of Factor 4
    is "I worry that he/she doesn't hear warnings such as shouts or alarms."
  • Factor 5 is emotional reactions. The highest loaded item of Factor 5 is
    "It makes me upset that I have to adapt."
  • Lastly, Factor 6 is concern for partner. The highest loaded item of Factor 6
    is "I worry about what people think of him/her when he/she doesn't respond to questions or conversations."

Consistent with previous literature, the authors note the importance of including the spouse in aural rehabilitation and they note older spouses do experience disability when their spouse has hearing impairment. When disabilities are revealed via the SOS-HEAR, these same disabilities can be addressed through appropriate audiology-based or alternative (i.e., referral) management strategies and protocols.

For More Information, References, and Recommendations

Scarinci N, Worrall L, Hickson L. (2009) The Effect of Hearing Impairment in Older People on the Spouse: Development and Psychometric Testing of the Significant Other Scale for Hearing Disability (SOS-HEAR). International Journal of Audiology 48(10):671–683.

Also of Interest