Dementia Inclusive Hidden Hearing Clinics to Learn, Listen, Link

Contributed by Dolores Madden

15/02/2024 00:00:00 • 2 min read

Tags • News and events

Learn, Listen, Link is the theme of expert training being undertaken by over 170 staff at Ireland’s specialist audiology providers, Hidden Hearing, in a revolutionary new programme to better understand and care for clients with dementia.


Training, which is in conjunction with The Alzheimer Society of Ireland (The ASI), includes staged clinic visits by The ASI team, and by people with dementia, to determine the best care protocols within a hearing healthcare setting.


The aim of the dementia inclusive initiative is to develop bespoke guidance for the team at Hidden Hearing to assist patients living with cognitive difficulties, according to audiologist Sarah Sheehan, who is a member of the healthcare company’s Learning and Development Team.


“We want to develop our knowledge, as a team, so we are confident in using the best and most successful care pathways for patients.

“People living with dementia may have anxiety around audiology appointments.  From their welcome at reception, to undergoing a hearing test and understanding a recommended treatment plan, it is important that we approach the patient appropriately, and accommodate their specific needs,” Sarah Sheehan explains.


The Learn, Listen, Link training, which is part of the HSE Dementia Understand Together campaign, will also build knowledge around services available to this patient group, and will help identify any need to alter hearing test protocols, communication strategies or rehabilitation applications, going forward.

A critical part of the scheme is hearing directly from people living with dementia, which is facilitated by The Alzheimer Society to both enhance practical understanding of dementia, and how to support those affected by the condition.


Kevin Quaid, who lives with Lewy Body Dementia and is Chair of the Irish Dementia working group, was involved in the Hidden Hearing training plan.

Kevin was fitted with hearing aids last year through Hidden Hearing’s Better Hearing Giveback Program as he suffered hearing loss. Kevin’s Lewy body dementia diagnosis combined with hearing loss was negatively impacting his overall quality of life, the lack of sound and speech clarity was contributing to the confusion related to Kevin’s dementia.


The difference has been life-changing now that his hearing has improved, and Kevin says that understanding how people with dementia like to be treated is a significant first step.


We need others to know that we want to be asked questions directly, and not have them directed to our carers.  When people hear the voice of the lived experience of dementia, they are often amazed that we actually know what we want, and what our likes and dislikes are.

“We are all individuals and, even though we have dementia, the type and characteristics of our condition differ, and no one should assume our competency or needs”, he says.


Dementia, and other serious illnesses like depression and diabetes, have been linked to hearing loss.  A study carried out by Opinions Market Research, on behalf of Hidden Hearing last year revealed that just 1 in 4 adults in Ireland (25%) are aware that hearing loss is associated with the early onset of dementia. 

Another study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore, USA, followed 600 adults for 12 years and found that mild hearing loss doubled the risk of dementia. Moderate hearing loss tripled someone's risk, and severe hearing loss increased the risk by five times.

The connection between hearing health and dementia does mean that creating a dementia inclusive environment in Hidden Hearing clinics will ensure staff provide the highest standards of patient centric care. 


“This training is a must in our discipline”, Sarah Sheehan maintains.

“As hearing care practitioners, it is important that we are confidently knowledgeable in helping those with cognitive issues, and that we can also work effectively with the patient’s support network, be that their carers or other medical practitioners”.


About Hidden Hearing:


Hidden Hearing has become the premier specialist provider of professional hearing healthcare in the private sector, with a network of over 85 clinics in Ireland, providing free hearing tests to more than 60,000 people every year.


About the Dementia: Understand Together campaign:

The Dementia: Understand Together campaign is a public support, awareness and information campaign that aims to inspire people from all sections of society to stand together with the 500,000 Irish people whose families have been affected by dementia. Led by the HSE in partnership with The Alzheimer Society of Ireland, Age Friendly Ireland, Age and Opportunity, Healthy Ireland and the Dementia Services Information and Development Centre, it is one of six key priorities of the Irish National Dementia Strategy. Dementia: Understand Together is now supported by over 40 partner organisations across Ireland, including in the retail, transport, banking, health, voluntary and community sectors. These organisations, together with over 1000 community champions from all over Ireland, are leading the way in creating communities that actively embrace and include those living with dementia and their families.

About The Alzheimer Society of Ireland (The ASI):

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland is Ireland's leading dementia-specific service provider. The Alzheimer Society of Ireland works across the country in the heart of local communities providing dementia-specific services and supports and advocating for the rights and needs of all people living with dementia and their carers. Our vision is an Ireland where people on the journey of dementia are valued and supported. A national non-profit organisation, The Alzheimer Society of Ireland advocates, empowers and champions the rights of people living with dementia and their communities to quality support and services. The Alzheimer Society of Ireland also operates the Alzheimer National Helpline offering information and support to anyone affected by dementia on 1800 341 341.



Dolores Madden, Marketing Director and Senior Audiologist, ISHAA Board Member
In 1987, Hidden Hearing was established in Ireland. Dolores Madden joined the company two years later. In 2003, Dolores was appointed Marketing Director at Hidden Hearing. Hearing loss is the second most common health issue globally and overcoming the stigma of hearing loss is one of our biggest challenges. Dolores is on a mission to promote pro-active hearing healthcare, encouraging people to take annual hearing tests and treatment as necessary. Early diagnosis and intervention can prevent social isolation, depression, cognitive decline, and other adverse impacts caused by untreated hearing loss.