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Age-related hearing and vision problems are common among people with dementia and are associated with poorer function, reduced quality of life and increased caregiver burden. Addressing sensory impairments may offer an opportunity to improve various aspects of life for people with dementia.
Electronic databases were searched using key terms dementia, hearing impairment, vision impairment, intervention, and management. Database searches were supplemented by hand searching bibliographies of papers and via consultation with a network of health professional experts. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they included adults aged over 50 with dementia with adult-onset hearing or vision impairment who had received a hearing or vision intervention in relation to cognitive function, rate of decline, psychiatric symptoms, hearing/vision-related disability, quality of life, and/or caregiver burden outcomes. A range of study designs were included. Results were summarized descriptively according to level of evidence and effect sizes calculated where possible. Risk of bias was assessed using Downs and Black's (1998) checklist. The development of the intervention was summarized according to the CReDECI2 scheme. PROSPERO review registration number 2016:CRD42016039737.
Twelve papers describing hearing interventions and five papers describing vision interventions were included. Most were of low to moderate quality. One high quality randomized controlled trial of a hearing aid intervention was identified. Hearing interventions included provision of hearing aids, assistive listening devices, communication strategies, hearing aid trouble shooting, and cochlear implantation. Vision interventions included prism lenses, rehabilitation training, and cataract surgery. There was no consistent evidence for the positive impact of hearing/vision interventions on cognitive function, rate of cognitive decline, quality of life, or caregiver burden.
Sensory interventions may promote better outcomes, but there is a need for properly powered, controlled trials of hearing and vision interventions on outcomes relevant to people living with dementia.
Cognitive screening tests frequently rely on items being correctly heard or seen. We aimed to identify, describe, and evaluate the adaptation, validity, and availability of cognitive screening and assessment tools for dementia which have been developed or adapted for adults with acquired hearing and/or vision impairment.
Electronic databases were searched using subject terms “hearing disorders” OR “vision disorders” AND “cognitive assessment,” supplemented by exploring reference lists of included papers and via consultation with health professionals to identify additional literature.
1,551 papers were identified, of which 13 met inclusion criteria. Four papers related to tests adapted for hearing impairment; 11 papers related to tests adapted for vision impairment. Frequently adapted tests were the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA). Adaptations for hearing impairment involved deleting or creating written versions for hearing-dependent items. Adaptations for vision impairment involved deleting vision-dependent items or spoken/tactile versions of visual tasks. No study reported validity of the test in relation to detection of dementia in people with hearing/vision impairment. Item deletion had a negative impact on the psychometric properties of the test.
While attempts have been made to adapt cognitive tests for people with acquired hearing and/or vision impairment, the primary limitation of these adaptations is that their validity in accurately detecting dementia among those with acquired hearing or vision impairment is yet to be established. It is likely that the sensitivity and specificity of the adapted versions are poorer than the original, especially if the adaptation involved item deletion. One solution would involve item substitution in an alternative sensory modality followed by re-validation of the adapted test.
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