Helping people in care homes with hearing problems to communicate

Research projects: Improving quality of life through addressing communication needs for people in residential care living with dementia

  • Lead Investigator: Dr Piers Dawes
  • Institution: University of Manchester
  • Grant type: PhD studentships
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Amount: £84,975

Why did we fund this research?

Comments from our Research Network

‘This struck me as an excellent, practical project with the potential to make real changes for the better, for people with dementia and those who care for them.’

What do we already know?

Many older people who live in care homes in the UK are affected by both hearing problems and dementia. Some residents may not be aware that they have a hearing problem. Untreated hearing problems can worsen dementia-related symptoms (for example worsen their communication if they are unable to hear clearly) and lead to residents feeling lonely. 

For older people with dementia who are aware they have a hearing loss, care home staff have told us that it’s common for residents to lose their hearing aids or for the aids not to work correctly which can contribute to on-going problems.

What does this project involve? 

The research team will work with care home residents who have problems with their hearing as well as dementia, their relatives and care home staff.

The research team will use a simple technology that can boost the volume of sounds. Unlike hearing aids, the Personal Sound Amplification Product (PSAP) is a technology which is cheap (£100), available over the counter and much easier to wear and use. They want to find out whether the PSAP is a potential alternative, or if it can be used alongside a hearing aid for older people who have problems with their hearing as well as dementia.

The researchers will assess how useful the PSAP is in improving hearing problems for people with dementia, there communication with others, their social life and overall quality of life with interviews and questionnaires. They will collect feedback from people with hearing problems and dementia, their relatives and care home staff.

How will this project help people living with dementia?

This work will address untreated hearing problems in care home residents who have dementia. If we can understand more about these problems and the most effective way to tackle them we will be able to support care home residents to communicate better.

It is an important opportunity to improve the lives of people with dementia who have a hearing problem, their families and how care home staff support them.