Hearing and eyesight

Hearing and eyesight problems can increase confusion in people with dementia, so it's important to monitor these.

Dealing with hearing problems

In people with dementia, poor hearing can add to feelings of confusion and isolation. If someone seems to have a hearing problem, ask the GP for a referral for a hearing test. The test and hearing aids, if needed, are free on the NHS.

If someone you know has hearing problems, the following tips may help.

  • If the person uses a hearing aid, make sure it's switched on and working properly. As dementia progresses, hearing aids can become too difficult for people to manage themselves and may simply add to the person's confusion.
  • If the person has hearing difficulties that a hearing aid can't resolve, try to attract their attention before speaking to them. Touch them on the arm to indicate where you are, make sure you're facing them and then speak slowly and clearly.
  • If the person doesn't understand you, try altering the form of words you're using rather than repeating the same phrase more loudly. Make sure there's no distracting noise, such as television, radio or loud voices. Remember to keep your questions simple, and never ask too many questions at a time as this may cause further confusion and distress.

Ensuring good eyesight

Problems with eyesight can increase confusion in people with dementia, and can make it harder for them to recognise people or objects. Optometrists have special techniques for assessing sight, even for people in the later stages of dementia. They should also check for cataracts and glaucoma (both of which can lead to blindness if left untreated), as well as for certain other medical conditions.

If someone with dementia has sight problems, you may need to tactfully remind them to wear their glasses and check that their lenses are clean.