The hearing of a person living with Dementia can impact their activities of daily living and give a negative perception surrounding their responses, even leading to them being labelled as having behaviours and aggression.
Although the symptoms of dementia usually involve losses of various kinds, it is very important to remember that the person who has dementia does not get ‘lost’.
We are still there, trying to understand things, trying to keep in touch with other people and do things which are important to them.
We still have feelings, likes and dislikes and hopes for the future.
There is a strong link between hearing loss and dementia. According to one study, people with mild hearing loss are two times as likely to develop dementia, and this increases to three times for those with moderate hearing loss (Lin et al 2011).
The reasons for this relationship are not clear, but communication difficulties may be one reason, as both hearing loss and dementia can make communication more difficult.
It is essential to recognise and respond sensitively to hearing loss in people with dementia. If a person with dementia is unable to communicate problems we are having with their hearing, this is likely to cause distress.
We may well be frustrated or aggressive, but unable to say why – and these reactions then may be interpreted as being a result of the dementia.
Both identification and management of hearing loss are particularly important where a person has dementia. Without this, the dementia may appear worse or get worse.
For example, if a person with dementia is having difficulty using their hearing aid – say we don’t remember to use it or don’t recognise it as their hearing aid – this is likely to make it harder for them to follow communication and may make them seem more confused and withdrawn.
Both hearing loss and dementia can cause social isolation.
Where someone is experiencing both of these, this can be compounded. For example, the person may be unwilling to attend social functions or participate in activities because their problems with hearing and memory make social situations so much more uncomfortable.
Hearing loss can lead to poor communication and the person to appear confused.
We may be unable to answer questions and make choices leading to frustration.
We may not be able to understand instructions or appear to ignore someone.
We may react suddenly when someone approaches because we didn’t hear them come into the room.
Tinnitus is the name given to a condition where a person hears sound which is not coming from outside the ears.
This sound may resemble ringing, buzzing or whistling.
In some cases it can sound like music or voices.
The sounds may be present all the time or we may stop and start.
Noise and Hyperacusis
Noise can have a negative effect on a person living with Dementia as well.
We may appear confused, lost, disorientated.
We may lose our ability to focus on a conversation especially if there is a lot of background noise or we are talking to more than one person.
We may sit with the TV volume low.
We may have headaches due to noisy environments.
Again, these things can lead us to be labelled with behaviours and aggression.
Noise is an issue for myself and I recently had a hearing test for Hyperacusis