March 2017 express.co.uk Telegraph & Argus

Doctors in Bradford are representing the UK in a new international study to find out if restored hearing can help stave off dementia. The Yorkshire Auditory Implant Service (YAIS) at Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI) is the only centre in the country to be invited to take part in the European and Middle-Eastern study, thanks to its pioneering work of giving older people cochlear implants under local anaesthetic.  This dramatically reduces the potential risks of frail and elderly patients undergoing general anaesthetics. Doctors at the Bradford service carry out the hour-long procedure at least once every month. The oldest patient to receive a cochlear implant in the city so far was 91-year-old Charles Holden, in 2015.

The BRI is marking World Hearing Day by starting to recruit the 30 patients it needs for the study to begin. Those taking part will have to be aged 55 and over and have severe or profound hearing loss in both ears. Half of them will go on to have cochlear implants while the other half will not. Both groups will be monitored and checked over the following two years to start with. ENT Professor Chris Raine said: “This is a fascinating and potentially life-changing study because it has the capacity to uncover whether restored hearing can stave off age-related cognitive conditions like dementia. The aim of the research is to find out how cochlear implants can benefit older adults. 

Jim PatrickJim Patrick, Cochlear Chief Scientist

Previous research projects have shown that having a hearing loss can lead to faster cognitive decline in the adult population, as can having a general anaesthetic in older adults. We want to find out if using a cochlear implant can help prevent this rate of cognitive decline amongst adults aged over 55.

Jane Martin, YAIS added: “We are honoured to have been asked to participate in this research. It is a reflection of the pioneering work carried out by our surgeons who are at the forefront of implanting so many elderly adults under local anaesthetic from across the region and beyond. Research has proved that local anaesthetics are safer for older people who very often have other co-morbidities and it’s widely known that they can also have an impact on a person’s cognitive decline. Being able to hear is a wonderful gift many of us take for granted and evidence is increasingly suggesting that being able to maintain good communication and regular socialising, thanks to being able to hear others, might stop that decline into old age and the onset of the likes of conditions such as dementia. Getting out and communicating in groups is vitally important to older people – and if you can’t do this and feel socially isolated then hearing loss can put up huge barriers to people being able to live a fuller life.”

The study’s lead investigator is Dr Paul van der Heyning, based in Antwerp, Belgium, who will compare them with simultaneous studies being carried out in a selection of other cities across Europe and the Middle East.