P30 The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on objective and subjective hearing ability in younger and older adults in the UK
During COVID-19, social interactions have reduced and become increasingly virtual. Older adults may be disproportionately affected by these changes. Outside a pandemic, socialisation may mediate the relationship between auditory and cognitive ageing. As such, it is important to understand how enforced isolation affects auditory functions in younger and older adults. The COVID-19 Social Hearing Study is an ongoing online study investigating whether auditory function in younger and older adults has changed during 12-months of the pandemic. The study additionally measures auditory engagement, loneliness, depression, and cognitive function, to determine which factors contribute to any changes in auditory function, and how this is affected by age. We present preliminary findings from a subset of the collected data (58 younger and 62 older adults, over 8-months). Preliminary analyses indicate a significant effect of Time (p < .001), but not Age group, on engagement in recreational auditory activities. No significant effects of Age or Time are observed for subjective hearing ability as measured online by the SSQ-12 (p > .05). However, there is a significant Time × Age effect on objective hearing ability, as measured by a novel online Speech-in-Noise task (p < .001). This appears to be driven by performance fluctuations in the younger (p < .001), but not older group, which may be due to differences in motivation for listening effort. These preliminary data present encouraging indications of auditory resilience during periods of auditory deprivation, as well as representing opportunities for successful online auditory assessments in multiple age groups.