Embedding audiological screening within memory clinic care pathway for individuals at risk of cognitive decline-patient perspectives

BMC Geriatr. 2021 Dec 14;21(1):691. doi: 10.1186/s12877-021-02701-0.


Background: With the evolving knowledge on hearing as a potentially modifiable mid-life risk factor for dementia, identification of people at risk becomes increasingly important. People with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) presenting to specialist memory services represent a key "at-risk" target population for audiological evaluation, but few services have established this pathway. This study sought to examine the patient experience and understanding of this process.

Methods: All patients with MCI attending a tertiary referral memory service referred for audiology review were contacted. A patient survey was delivered over the phone. Outpatient letters and the memory clinic database were reviewed.

Results: Twenty patients with MCI were included in the survey. Eight (8/20, 40%) had self-reported hearing loss. Upon formal audiological assessment seventeen (17/20, 85%) had objective evidence of hearing loss; nine (9/17, 52.9%) with mild-moderate and eight (8/17, 47%) with moderate-severe hearing loss. Only six patients (6/20, 30%) recalled having the rationale behind having a hearing test as part of their memory work-up explained to them. However, the majority (15/20, 75%) felt a hearing test was an important part of their memory assessment. Just seven patients overall (7/20, 35%) identified a link between hearing-loss and cognition. All patients who provided feedback on the service itself made positive comments, although (4/20, 20%) felt they did not get adequate information about the results.

Conclusions: A significant proportion of people with MCI had de-novo evidence of hearing impairment upon assessment. Patients are satisfied with incorporating audiological evaluation into a memory clinic assessment, however clear communication around indication, recommendations, and follow-up ensuring compliance is required.

Keywords: Audiology; Brain health; Cognitive impairment; Dementia; Hearing.

MeSH terms

  • Audiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / diagnosis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / epidemiology
  • Critical Pathways
  • Hearing Loss* / diagnosis
  • Hearing Loss* / epidemiology
  • Hearing Tests
  • Humans