MICRA COVID Webinar: Hearing loss, cognitive decline and mental health

MICRA hosted a webinar titled 'Hearing loss, cognitive decline and mental health in the shadow of COVID-19’ on Wednesday 2 September.

The event was chaired by MICRA Director Prof Alistair Burns who also spoke at the webinar.

Dr Jenna Littlejohn spoke on hearing loss, mental health and cognitive function during social distancing.

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused world-wide disruption in community and social interactions. People over the age of 70, deemed as having a greater risk for severe illness, are expected to follow social distancing guidance particularly stringently and limit face-to-face interactions wherever possible. We want to understand how isolation due to COVID-19 is affecting people over 70 with HL and Jenna presented preliminary findings to report how HL and social distancing are related to loneliness, depression, anxiety and cognitive decline.

Professor Chris Plack then presented data from recent animal and human studies that reveal the impact of ageing on the neural processing of sounds. Chris also discussed the implications of these results for our understanding of the communication difficulties faced by older people.

Alistair Burns concluded by addressing a number of issues which have arisen with regard to dementia and the impact of COVID-19.

In the early days of the pandemic, there was an appreciation that in older people the presentation was slightly atypical compared to the sentinel symptoms of cough, high temperature and breathlessness. In people with dementia, communication difficulties may have impaired someone’s ability to express or complain of symptoms and there was an appreciation that the signs of a COVID infection were important to determine.

Also, people with dementia may have had some challenges in appreciating social distancing or even hand washing regimes. The use of personal protective equipment presented some difficulties as direct personal contact with people who have dementia is the key to good person-centred care.

You can view the presentations by Jenna and Chris here:

View a recording of the webinar.

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