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Case Study: Hearing Loss or Dementia?

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By Sam Ryan

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Recently a patient sought assistance from North West Ear Care to treat a build-up of wax. After struggling to hear for some time the patient was beginning to become depressed. He started to withdraw from friends and family as he was unable to join in with social gatherings and conversations. Despite having bilateral hearing aids from an AQP provider to help with hearing loss, he still couldn’t hear. The patient showed signs of confusion and difficulty in following conversation, both common symptoms of dementia. His family and friends were getting concerned and after a visit to the patient’s GP, he was scheduled for a memory assessment.

With severe untreated hearing loss, a person is five times more likely to develop dementia. (Lancet Commission, 2020)

Before attending the memory assessment, the patient’s GP recommended that he get an ear and hearing health check-up, to make sure the patient could hear the clinician conducting the assessment. Kerry at North West Ear Clinic undertook the procedure and noticed a significant build-up of wax during the check-up. The patient had hearing aids already, but these had stopped working effectively due to wax build-up. Using her Tympa system, Kerry removed the patient’s compacted ear wax using microsuction. The patient noticed an immediate improvement in his hearing. Whilst it is clear the patient does have a degree of hearing loss; he is now able to hear well with his hearing aids now wax is no longer present.

After the patient’s ear and hearing health check-up, he attended his memory assessment appointment, to check for signs of dementia. The clinician was able to effectively assess the patient and determine if further tests were needed. Thanks to the wax removal procedure with the Tympa system the patient and clinician could communicate well with each other.

The patient left his ear and hearing health appointment with improved hearing and was able to engage with his family and friends once more – a fantastic patient outcome.

A simple thing, like removing wax from someone’s ears, can make a huge difference. The smile from a patient when their hearing is improved is such an amazing part of my job. I recently treated a patient who had become depressed and was socially isolating from his family due to wax blocking both ears. This had caused the gentleman a significant hearing loss. After I removed the wax build-up, he noticed an immediate improvement in his hearing. He still had some age-related hearing loss present, but his communication was much better. This meant he could join in with social activities again and he felt less isolated.”  

– Kerry, North West Ear Care.