Impact, identification and management of hearing loss in people with dementia
- Dr Piers Dawes
- Dr Jenna Littlejohn
- Dr Rebecca Millman
Both hearing impairment and dementia are increasingly common among older people. A previous survey in Manchester found that up to 90% of people with dementia living at home have a significant hearing impairment. The survey reported that in most people, hearing impairment had not been previously diagnosed or treated.
Hearing impairment is a particular problem for people with dementia because firstly, it may be difficult to tell how much someone's difficulties are due to hearing problems and how much is due to a memory problem. Also, the tests used by doctors to diagnose memory problems and dementia are affected by hearing, so that someone might do poorly on a dementia test because they have hearing problems rather than a memory problem. Some people may end up with an incorrect diagnosis of 'dementia', or doctors may decide that the severity of dementia is worse than it actually is because someone's difficulties may be at least partly due to hearing problems rather than dementia. Hearing impairment may result in people not getting the most appropriate treatment or support.
Secondly, hearing impairment impacts on communication and quality of life, and may interact with dementia to make someone's difficulties in daily life worse. Hearing impairment may contribute to social isolation and withdrawal from mentally stimulating activities, and social isolation and withdrawal may promote progression of dementia. Identifying and managing hearing problems is very important for improving communication and quality of life for people living with dementia.
In this MICRA seminar, we will talk about work from the SENSE-cog project and other on-going projects looking at the impact of hearing impairment on people living with dementia, how doctors should assess people for dementia when people have a hearing problem and how to reduce the impact of hearing impairment for people living with dementia