Appeal for volunteers in hearing loss study

A NEW study looking at hearing loss and its impact on social isolation and cognitive function is appealing for volunteers.

Researchers believe loss of hearing can have a profound effect on older adults and the Neuroscience of Speech and Action Lab at Lancaster University is looking for participants to join a study which aims to understand the potential relationship between hearing ability and withdrawal from social environments – and the subsequent impact of that isolation.

Currently, Action on Hearing Loss estimate that around 12m UK residents are living with hearing loss. That figure is expected to jump to 14.2m by 2035.

Researcher Dr Kate Slade said: “Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic diseases among older adults, leading to communication difficulties, fatigue and cognitive decline. Communication becomes particularly challenging in social situations where background noise is high, this can cause older adults to withdraw from social interactions, leading to loneliness and isolation.

“Research suggests there is an association between hearing loss and cognitive function in later life, with hearing loss being identified as potentially the most modifiable risk factor for dementia. It is possible that this relationship is worsened by social isolation.

“Now more than ever, as many people being asked to shield or isolate due to Covid-19, it is essential to understand the impact of social isolation on both cognitive and sensory function in older adults.”

The study takes place over the next 12 months and is entirely online, so participants can take part from the comfort of their own home via a computer and some earphones. Participants will be asked to complete some online questionnaires and short memory and hearing tasks.

To join the study, participants must be aged 18-30 or 60-85. They must be a right-handed, monolingual speaker of British English, have no history of language, neurological or psychiatric disorders. Anyone taking part will be compensated for their time with a small allowance of shopping vouchers.

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