Our innovation post-doctoral researcher, Jenna, is investigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with hearing loss in terms of mental health and cognitive function.

Dr. Jenna Littlejohn


Driven by my passion for neuroscience and specialist interests in dementia and hearing loss, I am continuing clinical research into the links between hearing loss and cognitive decline during ageing and dementia.

Our DSN research programme

DSN have partnered with the University of Manchester’s Centre for Audiology and Deafness to support a post-doctoral research fellowship. Our innovative programme adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic to investigate how social distancing brought about by the pandemic impacts on mental health and cognitive function, and how this may be different for people with hearing loss.

We found that hearing difficulties were associated with increased levels of loneliness, depression and self-perceived cognitive function during the pandemic and greater hearing difficulties were associated with increased odds of reporting a decline in memory over the lockdown period. We are currently understanding the longer-term impacts and hope to share the findings on this in 2022.

Our past research has included:

investigating which areas of cognition might be selectively effected in people with hearing loss as a means to try and understand further a possible causal link between hearing loss and the onset of dementia.

how we can best recognise, manage and support hearing and vision impairment for people living with dementia- with production of international guidelines for clinicians working across the three domains, and a handy guide for families and carers to understand a bit more about the links between sensory loss and dementia and how to best support loved ones.

You can read more about our research outputs so far below.

Our research will be updated following Jenna’s return from maternity leave, if in the mean time you require any additional information please do not hesitate to contact us dsn@dsnonline.co.uk

Research Paper

Earlier this year, we have published the first outcome from this project. To read the open-access journal published in Age and Ageing, please follow the link below.

Research Papers

Hearing Assessment and Rehabilitation for People Living With Dementia

The aim of this review was to outline best practice recommendations for the assessment and rehabilitation of hearing impairment for PwD with reference to the current evidence base. These recommendations, written by audiology, psychology, speech-language, and dementia nursing professionals, also highlight areas of research need. The review is aimed at hearing care professionals and includes practical recommendations for adapting audiological procedures and processes for the needs of PwD.

International Practice Recommendations for the Recognition and Management of Hearing and Vision Impairment in People with Dementia

The aim of this work was to codevelop internationally relevant, multidisciplinary practice recommendations for professionals involved in the diagnosis, care, and management of older people with these concurrent conditions.

Self-reported hearing difficulties are associated with loneliness, depression and cognitive dysfunction during the COVID-19 pandemic

The aim of this work was to investigate whether hearing difficulties exacerbate the damaging effects of enforced social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic on isolation and loneliness, and lead to accelerated mental health issues and cognitive dysfunction.

This article is available to read online

Understanding the links between hearing loss and dementia: development and validation of the Social and Emotional Impact of Hearing Impairment (SEI-HI) questionnaire

The aim of this study was to develop and validate a tool to analyse levels of hearing-related disability, to investigate ultimately whether subjective disability contributes to risk of cognitive impairment compared with hearing thresholds alone.

Age-Related hearing loss an under-recognised cause of memory difficulties mimicking early Alzheimer’s disease

Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is often associated with better prognosis due to access to treatment, better forward planning and postponement of institutionalisation. An inaccurate diagnosis of dementia may be harmful because of adverse events and negative effect on quality of life. It is, therefore, essential to identify all features leading to inappropriate diagnosis. We describe a case of severe hearing loss (HL) mimicking the clinical features of early AD.

Would you be interested in becoming a Research Volunteer?

Manchester Biomedical Research Centre need volunteers with normal hearing and hearing loss to take part in research studies that teach us more about hearing loss and how best to treat it.

Being a research participant can be good fun and the friendly team aim to give you the best possible experience.

Please email dsn@dsnonline.co.uk to find out more.

Awards and Accreditations