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Audiologists' Views & Experiences of Adults with Dementia

Aim: To explore Audiologists’ views and experiences of adult patients with dementia.

The progressive deterioration of hearing in older adults results in 50% of 60-69 years olds expected to have a hearing loss to 80% for people aged over 75 (Agrawal et al., 2008). At least 12% of people over the age of 70 will suffer from either mild cognitive impairment or dementia (Dupuis et al., 2012), with the rate of dementia expected to double every 5 years in people aged 70 to 84 years (Antsey et al. 2010). Research on cognition and hearing loss in older adults has shown a disproportionate number of people with cognitive decline having concomitant hearing loss. Uhlman et al. (1989) found that hearing loss was significantly and independently correlated with the severity of cognitive dysfunction. Similarly, findings from studies (Gold et al., 1996; Peters et al., 1998; Uhlmann et al., 1989; Wallaghen et al., 2008) suggest cognitive decline is greater in dementia patients with hearing loss compared to those without hearing loss. Lin et al. (2011) as part of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging found hearing loss to be independently associated with poorer cognitive functioning and incident dementia.

A high possibility of co-occurrence of hearing loss and cognitive dysfunction is expected as a result of the increased prevalence of both these impairments in older adults. As such, it can be expected that older adults seen by audiologists for hearing assessment and rehabilitation may likely suffer from some form of cognitive difficulty. There is a paucity of research looking at audiologists’ awareness of dementia in older patients and furthermore their experiences of working with patients with dementia.

The research has been carried out and is currently being written up.

This study was supported by Sense.

If you would like more information on this study, please contact:Dr. Nicola Wright PhD, Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham: Nicola.Wright@nottingham.ac.uk OR Dr. Imran Mulla PhD, Clinical and Research Consultant, The Ear Foundation:  imran@earfoundation.org.uk