Hearing Aid Alternatives for Those with Dementia

By |2019-06-18T09:48:22+00:00June 14, 2019|
  • Hearing aid

Hearing loss is associated with a 30-40% rate of accelerated cognitive decline, but only 20% of people who experience hearing loss actually seek treatment.1 Resistance to seeking hearing aids as a treatment can include high costs, social stigma and perceived lack of efficacy of hearing aids.2 Recent studies suggest that correcting hearing loss is positively correlated with cognitive improvement and prevention of social isolation.3,4

Individual Listening Systems

Hearing aids are for personal use, and until fairly recently, few alternatives existed for individual consumers. A study conducted by the University of Manchester reported that using hearing aids can slow dementia by 75 percent. The study cites that hearing loss can increase social isolation, decrease cognitive stimulation and cause a person to withdraw as reasons for accelerated cognitive decline. Furthermore, many of those who need hearing aids do not wear them due to social stigma and discomfort.

1. Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs)

One major complaint about hearing aids is that they are costly and are often a recurring expense that can be upwards of $7,000. PSAPs are a new category of audio enhancement technology that can be bought over-the-counter, making them an appealing option to many seniors with hearing loss. Disadvantages include the fact that these types of devices are not currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, do not account for sound distortion, and can require some manual maintenance and set-up.

Why They Are Great Alternatives for Those with Dementia

These products may be ideal for individuals living with dementia at home, or for those who have been diagnosed with mild cognitive decline. PSAPs are typically budget-friendly and have a longer battery life than most hearing aids, often enabling up to 10-12 hours of use. These types of audio enhancers are recommended for mild hearing loss and are often described by their ability to enhance hearing in certain settings such as noisy restaurants.

2. FM Systems

FM Systems allow for greater mobility by using radio broadcast technology to bring distant sounds directly to listeners’ ears. These types of systems are ideal in settings that have a lot of background noise, such as auditoriums, classrooms or the outdoors. Using multiple FM systems in the same environment can cause sound spillover, so it is recommended to use different broadcast frequencies when there are multiple systems in use.

Why They Are Great Alternatives for Those with Dementia

These products may also be ideal for individuals living for those who have been diagnosed with mild cognitive decline who may need an additional boost in noisy settings.  Similar to PSAPs, these products are budget-friendly and improve clarity for the listener. These devices can be used with hearing aids, cochlear implants and even those that are hard of hearing but do not wear either device.

Group Listening Systems

Several studies suggest that social isolation can accelerate cognitive decline due to lack of stimulation.5,6 Group listening systems enhance existing interactive technologies and have the ability to facilitate effective communication in group and one-on-one settings. Many of these devices also reduce background noise, are easy to use, increase focus, improve communication and can improve hearing significantly. These types of hearing assistive technologies (HATS) tend to deliver additional benefits beyond just correcting hearing loss, including increased social engagement and reduced risk of falls.7

1. Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunication (DECT) Systems

DECT Systems for correcting hearing loss are a relatively new category of assistive listening devices.  Early evidence suggest these systems can increase engagement and mood by enabling clear communication between users.8,9,10 These types of systems use radio frequency to communicate from one sound source to many listeners. The system uses a base which constantly transmits a beacon signal which can be received by a headset in the vicinity. Once these are synced, cordless communication is possible. DECT technology also allows for wireless communication, which increases flexibility and mobility for users. These devices have been shown to increase engagement, participation and mood for residents in assisted living and memory care.

Why They Are Great Alternatives for Those with Dementia

These types of systems are great for senior living communities because they can be used in both group and individual settings. Another advantage is that they tend to be better at reducing background noise and increasing focus, a common complaint among dementia sufferers. Furthermore, DECT systems are not limited by walls and have a longer range, which can be a way to engage bed-ridden individuals, particularly in music therapy and sundowning.

2. Infrared Systems

Infrared systems use converted light waves to send sound to a receiver. Infrared systems are more secure because, unlike FM Radio or DECT systems, sound cannot spillover to another room. Infrared systems are often used with televisions and in theaters. Infrared systems cannot be used outdoors due to light interference.

Why They Are Great Alternatives for Those with Dementia

Infrared systems are great for senior living communities who require privacy and are ideal for doctor-patient communications.

3. Hearing Induction Loops

Hearing Induction Loops produce a magnetic field that transmits audio directly with T-Coil enabled hearing aids, eliminating the need for the user to wear headphones or earbuds. Listeners with hearing aids can connect to the induction loop by selecting the “T” setting on their hearing aid. Although hearing induction loops are most commonly used in group settings, they can also be installed for individual use. These types of systems require users to have T-Coil compatible hearing aids, which is not always the case. Users without T-Coil compatible hearing aids require additional equipment, such as headphones, to connect to the hearing loop. Furthermore, these systems can be very expensive and, since they require the installation of a wire in the floor or ceiling of a room, are not portable.

Why They Are Great Alternatives for Those with Dementia

These types of systems use residents’ personal hearing aids as a receiver, potentially reducing long-term costs to communities. Hearing induction loops, like both DECT and FM systems, also increase signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) allowing for clearer communication, which may facilitate better focus and understanding.

Correcting hearing loss is a recommended treatment for those who are living with dementia by the American Speech-Hearing Loss Association (ASHA).  Given that each type of assistive listening system serves those living with dementia differently, it is recommended that each device be reviewed by the individual user to the best of their ability. If your loved one resides in an assisted living or memory care community, we encourage you to ask about the types of assistive listening systems used in the community.

For communities that use Eversound (DECT System), please visit us here.

Learn how Eversound helps residents with dementia at Silverado Memory Care here.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4075051/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30379683
  3. https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/whats-connection-between-hearing-and-cognitive-health
  4. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-20496-w
  5. https://ebn.bmj.com/content/17/2/59
  6. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/002214650905000103
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3518403/
  8. /case-study/lcb-senior-living/
  9. /case-study/commonwealth-senior-living/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5164856/