Measurement of social engagement in adults with hearing loss

PhD student

Ms Eithne Heffernan

Supervisory team

Dr Melanie Ferguson
Dr Helen Henshaw
Dr David Maidment
Dr Johanna Barry

Dr Neil Coulson


NIHR Nottingham Hearing BRU

Study period

October 2013 - Present

Background and rationale

Hearing loss is a widespread condition that can have a negative impact on social engagement. In particular, hearing loss can make it difficult to communicate with other people and to fully participate in family life, work life, education and recreation.

The main aim of this research is to develop a self-report outcome measure, or questionnaire, that can assess the social impact of hearing loss. This questionnaire could be used in research or clinical practice to evaluate whether interventions for hearing loss, such as hearing aids, lead to improved social engagement.

The first stage of this research examined the main consequences of hearing loss to create content for the questionnaire. The second stage assessed the clarity, relevance and appropriateness of the questionnaire. The third stage will assess the accuracy of the questionnaire.


This is a mixed methods study, incorporating both quantitative and qualitative techniques.

Study 1: Firstly, a pilot study was carried out with two members of the NHBRU Patient and Public Involvement Panel and two hearing healthcare professionals. Secondly, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 25 adults with hearing loss from the UK and 9 hearing healthcare professionals from the UK and North America.

Study 2: Cognitive interviews were held with 14 adults with hearing loss from the UK. Also, 20 hearing healthcare professionals completed an online content validity assessment, including international experts from the UK, the Netherlands and North America. A member of the NHBRU Patient and Public Involvement Panel assisted with the modification of the questionnaire.


Study 1: Hearing loss can have substantial social and emotional consequences. Specifically, many people with hearing loss feel isolated and frustrated in social gatherings, as it is difficult to take part in group conversations. Some even avoid going to particular social gatherings. These findings were used to develop questions for the new questionnaire.

Study 2: The majority of questions in the questionnaire were rated as clear, relevant and appropriate. The response scale of the questionnaire was challenging for some participants and
therefore required adjustment.

Future Directions

The third stage of this research is currently underway. The new questionnaire is being sent to a large number of adults with hearing loss in the UK. The data collected will be statistically analysed to assess the quality and accuracy of the questionnaire.