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The Effect of Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids on the Use of Information and Communication Technologies by Community-Living Older Adults*

  • Chris Gonsalves (a1) and Margaret Kathleen Pichora-Fuller (a1)

Innovations in information and communication technologies are changing society, but only 1 in 15 Canadian seniors used a computer at the turn of the millennium (Statistics Canada, 2000). Furthermore, about 1 in 5 Canadian seniors has difficulty hearing, seeing, or communicating. The primary goal of the study was to investigate the relationship between hearing impairment and the use of information and communication technologies by older adults. A questionnaire about use of technologies was administered to 135 older adults and hearing was measured using audiometry. Hearing was found to be related to the extent of use of communication technologies, especially newer and more specialized technologies. Those with hearing loss who did not use a hearing aid did not use other technologies as much as peers with good hearing or hearing-aid users. Overall, the extent of and ability to use information and communication technologies was greater for the study sample than in previous findings for a national sample; however, the patterns of usage of various technologies and the factors influencing use were similar in the two samples. Recommendations are made for future research, health education programs, and universal design.


Les innovations en technologies de l'information et de la communication transforment la société. Toutefois, parmi les aînés résidant au Canada, seulement 1 sur 15 utilisait un ordinateur au tournant du millénium, et 1 sur 5 éprouve des difficultés auditives, visuelles ou de communication (Statistique Canada, 2000). Le but premier de l'étude est d’étudier le lien entre la déficience auditive et l'utilisation des technologies de l'information et de la communication chez les aînés. Un questionnaire portant sur l'utilisation des technologies a été administré à 135 aînés chez qui l'audition a été mesurée par audiométrie. Une corrélation a été démontrée entre l'audition et l'étendue d’utilisation des technologies de la communication, particulièrement en ce qui concerne les technologies nouvelles et spécialisées. Les aînés avec déficience auditive qui ne portent pas d’appareils auditifs n’utilisent pas d’autres technologies aussi fréquemment que leurs pairs ayant une bonne audition ou même ceux qui utilisent des appareils auditifs. De façon générale, l'aptitude et l'étendue d’utilisation des technologies de l'information et de la communication étaient plus élevés au sein de l'échantillon à l'étude comparativement aux résultats rapportés pour un échantillon national. Toutefois, les patrons d’utilisation des diverses technologies ainsi que les facteurs influençant leur utilisation étaient similaires dans les deux échantillons. Des recommandations touchant les études futures, les programmes d’éducation à la santé et la conception universelle sont proposées.

Corresponding author
Requests for offprints should be sent to:/Les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à: M. Kathleen Pichora-Fuller, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, 3359 Mississauga Rd. N., Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6, (
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This study was conducted to fulfil the requirements of CCT 405, an independent project course in the Human Communication and Technology Specialization of the Communication, Culture, and Information Technology Program at the University of Toronto at Mississauga. We wish to thank Christine De Luca for conducting the hearing tests and Elizabeth Olszewska for recruiting volunteers to complete the survey. We also wish to thank Véronique Vaillancourt from the Programme d'audiologie et d'orthophonie, École des sciences de la réadaptation, Université d'Ottawa for translating the abstract into French. This work was presented as a poster at the Canadian Gerontological Association annual conference in Quebec City in October 2006.

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Canadian Journal on Aging / La Revue canadienne du vieillissement
  • ISSN: 0714-9808
  • EISSN: 1710-1107
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-on-aging-la-revue-canadienne-du-vieillissement
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