Experts in cognition and hearing contributed to an evidence-based guideline that promotes hearing and cognitive health in audiologic rehabilitation.
The publication “Promoting hearing and cognitive health in audiologic rehabilitation for the well-being of older adults” builds on the premise that when hearing loss goes untreated, the brain has less information to process what is being said.
The trajectory is simple – hearing loss affects the ability to communicate and interferes with social engagement and activity levels. When social situations are perceived as a threat because of difficulty interpreting a garbled message, people with hearing loss often stop doing the things they liked to do.
When the set of relationships one has and one’s social network are not meeting expectations, a sense of loneliness often sets in. Loneliness then may be a signal that that there is something wrong in our social environment. A threatening social environment sets the vicious cycle into action.1
Why hearing care is important for those with ‘lonely brains’
- The brain is plastic, and the lonely brain can be transformed, especially the regions important to executive function and memory.
- The brain can “snap back” with interventions focused on helping to self-manage in threatening situations such as noisy environments or when multiple speakers are speaking at once.
Why your approach needs to be holistic
A holistic approach to healthcare entails connecting people to activities, groups and forms of support that improve health, well-being, and promote community-based integrated care.2
You could play an integral role in helping your clients maintain their quality of life and optimal function through your hearing healthcare interventions supplemented by social prescribing.
Social prescribing is not an intervention but a pathway for connecting clients to non-medical support that addresses their social, emotional, and other unmet needs. Assessing and maximizing hearing and understanding, especially in challenging listening environments, is a first step.
What the guideline offers you
This guideline provides a set of client-centered management goals for people with hearing loss and multiple morbidities who may be at risk for cognitive decline or are demonstrating slight declines in cognition.
Using a typical case, they spell out how the management goals can be realized by first recognizing when a client may demonstrate evidence of cognitive challenges and then implementing strategies effective for optimizing audibility, processing, and auditory wellness.
To access the publication, click on this link.
1. Cummins, E. & Zaleski, A. (July 14, 2023). If loneliness is an epidemic how do we treat it? New York Times.
2. Percival A, Newton C, Mulligan K, et al. (2022). Systematic review of social prescribing and older adults: where to from here? Family Medicine and Community Health;10: e001829. doi: 10.1136/fmch-2022-001829