Hearing loss creates many problems for older adults. For many people, this includes a decline in both the quality and quantity of meaningful conversations.

The situation is made even worse if the person with hearing loss lives alone. Loneliness is a very real problem for many people with hearing loss, and there is strong evidence that this can lead to other health concerns.

The Hearing Rehabilitation Foundation has received a research grant from Analog Devices Foundation to investigate whether online conversations can help alleviate the feelings of loneliness and isolation confronting many people with hearing loss.

The Talkabout study will use the Facebook Portal system to enable people living alone to have two weekly chats with an assigned conversation partner. In the first stages of the project, the talkers will be student volunteers from Boston University. Each participant will be provided with a Facebook Portal system without cost for the duration of the study. Participants will also be encouraged to use the Portal at other times for conversations with family members and friends.

The Portal is a stand-alone system that consists of a 12″ monitor with a built-in speaker, video camera, and microphone – think FaceTime on a larger screen with better sound quality. It is a hands-free device, which makes it a very comfortable system to use.

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People 70 or older, live alone, have a mobile phone, and live in the Greater Boston area are eligible.  Requests from other areas will also be considered.


You will receive all services without cost. A Facebook Portal system will be loaned for the duration of the study.


There are short interviews one week before and after the trial period. During these interviews, there will be  measures of perceived hearing skills and feelings of loneliness.

You will need to install either Facebook or WhatsApp on your mobile device.


The trial is 10 weeks. There are two 30-60 minute conversations per week.