The prevalence and perceptions of hearing loss in individuals diagnosed with adult onset motor neuron disease (MND).

Philippou, Elena
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Although it is well-known that motor neuron disease (MND) primarily affects motor neurons, the involvement of sensory pathways in the disease is currently receiving more attention. There is a dearth of information regarding the atypical effects of MND, resulting in limited understanding of the vulnerability of for example the auditory system. The presence of hearing loss negatively impacts on participation across all communicative contexts, stripping individuals of autonomy and self-worth, ultimately resulting in withdrawal and isolation. These factors form the foundation for individual desire to pursue life-prolonging measures. Hearing loss, combined with dysarthria and the use of augmentative and alternative communicative strategies, implies that individuals with MND require additional support to meet their daily communicative needs. This descriptive, exploratory study aimed to identify the prevalence of hearing loss in eight individuals with adult onset MND. In addition, perceptions relating to the implications of auditory impairment and value of auditory diagnosis were explored. An evaluation of auditory function was performed on eight individuals with a neurologist confirmed diagnosis of MND. Auditory function was assessed using a comprehensive audiological test battery including both objective and subjective measures. Perceptions related to auditory impairment were determined using the Hearing Handicap Inventory for Adults (HHIA) and the Hearing Experience Questionnaire. Both individuals with MND and their primary caregivers completed the Hearing Experience Questionnaire. The results of the study indicate that a high frequency sensorineural hearing loss was identified in six participants. Auditory handicap, as measured by the Hearing Handicap Inventory for Adults, was reported in four participants, with social handicaps reported more than emotional handicaps. Individuals with MND and their caregivers identified communication as the most important functional skill. Interestingly, the caregivers related more to the threats auditory impairment than individuals with MND. The nature of hearing loss identified in this study mimics the pattern of a presbycustic (age-related) hearing loss. It is postulated that hearing loss may arise during disease course. Participants‘ limited understanding of the devastating consequences of hearing loss on quality of life highlights the need for inclusion of an audiologist as part of the multidisciplinary management team in MND. Audiological assessment, management, counseling and education will serve to guide the process of sensory regulation and limit psychosocial threats posed by MND. This will in turn promote enhanced quality of life and maintenance of individual autonomy.
Atypical symptoms, Hearing loss, Motor neuron disease, Perceptions, Sensory regulation, Socio-emotional consequences