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The Hearing Chronicle
Published on Tuesday 7th May 2019

I caught up with one of Regain Hearing’s Audiologists and Company Director, Lee Fletcher, in order to get some answers about hearing loss and the connection with dementia, here’s what he told me...

“Dementia can be a frightening diagnosis to receive and certainly more serious than a problem with ear wax, yet worryingly, we know that ear wax causes hearing loss and outwardly the symptoms are similar to dementia which can lead to anxiety for the patient and their family.”

Lee explains, “I have personally known of a number of cases where individuals have been diagnosed with dementia and after subsequent investigation, at a later stage, it has been revealed that what they actually have is untreated hearing loss, sometimes this can be as simple as having a build up of ear wax which may have gone undetected for some considerable time. It’s quite something when you witness someone who arrives with a family member or carer and seems withdrawn and unable to follow the conversation suddenly, after having received successful treatment, begin to blossom and join in conversation. Sometimes, as with ear wax removal, this can be quite an instant difference, whilst on other occasions, where we have been able to fit hearing aids to address a hearing loss, we notice a more gradual improvement as we monitor their progress with regular follow ups.” I asked Lee if he felt enough is being done to make people aware of the risks that untreated hearing loss poses to our health? He responded, “It has been our experience that the majority of people are quite unaware of the associated health risks, there simply hasn’t been the same focus on hearing loss and efforts to educate the public as there has been in other areas of health.”

I asked Lee how he felt about the future and whether he believes that hearing health will be taken more seriously? “I do feel more needs to be done, however, over the last few years, hearing aids have improved significantly and we can now achieve results we couldn’t have hoped for previously and there are more exciting developments on the horizon. The audiology industry now understands the importance of providing education for the general public. In our audiology practices, all our staff are trained to understand hearing loss and its implications in order that they are informed and can pass their knowledge on. We run regular events and produce material aimed at helping people understand hearing loss, its implications and the choices now available to them so they can make better, more informed decisions. I really believe that through education and the vast improvements in hearing technology, we will be in a position to assist many more people regain and protect their ear health”.

Since joining Regain Hearing as an audiologist at their Eltham practice, Kirsten Booth has made quite an impact.

Kirsten studied in her native South Africa having gained an impressive array of qualifications, she is a speech and language therapist and audiologist. After leaving university, she worked at the Dr. Yusuf Dadoo hospital practicing as a speech-language therapist and audiologist where she gained a wide variety of experience working with patients across the spectrum: patients who were suffering as a result of traumatic brain and stroke injury, dementia, tinnitus or illness right through to assessments on newborn babies. It’s fair to say the range of her experience far exceeds her years.

Kirsten decided to relocate to London in February 2018 where she joined Regain Hearing.
The first thing you notice about Kirsten when you meet her is her friendly, welcoming smile. She seems to radiate warmth and a quiet confidence that belies her youth. I was intrigued by her choice of profession and to find out what drew her to pursue a career in audiology.
Kirsten is keen to share with me why she feels audiology is far more exciting than it may seem to the uninitiated!

“It’s actually a very exciting time to be an audiologist, there have been amazing developments in hearing aid technology in the last few years and we are just beginning to see the results of serious investment by the manufacturers in hearing health.

We can now offer unparalleled hearing quality and clarity compared to what would have been available a few years ago with aids that take advantage of Bluetooth streaming and have the ability to adapt automatically to a variety of environments.

One of the manufacturers we work with has recently launched a product that utilises artificial intelligence (AI). The driving force behind these developments is the proven link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline. This is really significant in preventing one of the most debilitating conditions to threaten our ageing population - Dementia. We now know that correcting a hearing loss has been recognised as the single most important thing a person can do to maintain their brain health and limit their risk of developing a dementia related illness, it was a theory at one point but now we have conclusive evidence. The hearing aid, called the Livio AI, can monitor body and brain activity, translate languages, detect if you’ve had a fall and much more. We have entered a completely new era in terms of hearing related health and I call that exciting.” says Kirsten and I think we’re inclined to agree, who knew hearing loss was so interesting?

 

 

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