Co-existing Dementia and Hearing Conditions PSP protocol


Published: 24 October 2023

Version: 3

Print this document

Purpose of the PSP and background

The purpose of this protocol is to clearly set out the aims, objectives and commitments of the Co-existing Dementia and Hearing Conditions Priority Setting Partnership (PSP) in line with James Lind Alliance (JLA) principles. The Protocol is a JLA requirement and will be published on the PSP’s page of the JLA website. The Steering Group will review the Protocol regularly and any updated version will be sent to the JLA.

The JLA is a non-profit making initiative, established in 2004. It brings patients, carers and clinicians together in PSPs. These PSPs identify and prioritise the evidence uncertainties, or ‘unanswered questions’, that they agree are the most important for research in their topic area. Traditionally PSPs have focused on uncertainties about the effects of treatments, but some PSPs have chosen to broaden their scope beyond that. The aim of a PSP is to help ensure that those who fund health research are aware of what really matters to patients, carers and clinicians. The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) coordinates the infrastructure of the JLA to oversee the processes for PSPs, based at the NIHR Coordinating Centre (NIHRCC), University of Southampton.

Dementia and hearing-related conditions, such as hearing loss, tinnitus and hyperacusis, affect many people and often co-exist. Hearing loss in particular has been identified as an independent risk factor for dementia, though the relationship is not yet fully understood. There is evidence about the individual impact of dementia or hearing-related conditions, but we know very little about the needs and priorities of those who experience both conditions in combination. Initial consultations with people who live with these conditions, their families and supporters, and their clinicians suggest that they have important unanswered questions about co-existing dementia and hearing conditions. Policymakers, research commissioners, and research funders should be made aware of these questions so that their decision-making is guided by what matters most to patients, carers, and clinicians.

Aims, objectives and scope of the PSP

The aim of the Co-existing Dementia and Hearing Conditions PSP is to identify the unanswered questions about dementia and hearing conditions from patient, carer and clinical perspectives and then prioritise those that patients, carers and clinicians agree are the most important for research to address.

The objectives of the PSP are to:

  • Work with patients, carers, health and social care professionals, and the general public to identify uncertainties about the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment (including management and self-management) of dementia and hearing conditions.
  • Agree by consensus a prioritised list of those uncertainties, for research.
  • Publicise the results of the PSP and process.
  • Take the results to research commissioning bodies to be considered for funding.

The scope of the Co-existing Dementia and Hearing Conditions PSP is defined as:

  • Identifying uncertainties about the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment (including management and self-management) of dementia and hearing conditions (e.g., hearing loss, tinnitus, hyperacusis, balance and vestibular conditions)

The PSP will exclude from its scope questions about:

  • That do not fit the scope of the PSP.

The Steering Group is responsible for discussing what implications the scope of the PSP will have for the evidence-checking stage of the process. Resources and expertise will be put in place to do this evidence checking.

The Steering Group

The Steering Group includes membership of patients and carers and clinicians, as individuals or representatives from a relevant group.

The Co-existing Dementia and Hearing Conditions PSP will be led and managed by a Steering Group involving the following:

Patient and carer representative/s

Jean Straus
Peter Jones
Elaine Beardsley-Turton
Masood Qureshi (MAQ)
Susan Strachan

Clinical representative/s

Dr Susan Mitchell, Head of Policy, Alzheimer's Research UK (ARUK)
Dr Hannah Semeraro, Insight and Evidence Team Lead, Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID)
Dr Devina Maru, General Practitioner, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.
Jack Stancel-Lewis, Clinical Fellow and Audiologist, NHS England and NHS Improvement
Anna-Louise Smith, Research Engagement Manager, Alzheimer's Society
Dr Dolapo Oseji, Specialist doctor, Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust.
Professor Tom Dening, Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist with Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust
Dr Kathryn Fackrell, Senior Research Fellow, The University of Nottingham, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Dr Rohnai Omar, Consultant Audiovestibular Physician, University College London Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust.
Bhavisha Parmar, Research Audiologist, UCL Ear Institute, University College London
Roulla Katiri, Chief Audiologist, Mater Hospital, Dublin

Project Lead and Coordinator

Dr Eithne Heffernan, Senior Research Fellow, The University of Nottingham, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (Lead)
Dr Sian Calvert, Research Fellow, The University of Nottingham, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (Coordinator)

James Lind Alliance Adviser and Chair of the Steering Group

Dr Nahid Ahmad, JLA Adviser

The Steering Group will agree the resources, including time and expertise that they will be able to contribute to each stage of the process, with input and advice from the JLA.


Organisations and individuals will be invited to be involved with the PSP as partners. Partners are organisations or groups who will commit to supporting the PSP, promoting the process and encouraging their represented groups or members to participate. Organisations which can reach and advocate for these groups will be invited to become involved in the PSP. Partners represent the following groups:

  • People who are living with dementia and/or hearing conditions.
  • Carers of people who are living with dementia and/or hearing conditions.
  • Professionals from healthcare, social care, or charities with experience of dementia and/or hearing conditions.
  • Research professionals with experience of dementia and/or hearing conditions or public engagement.
  • Personnel from the Department of Health and Social Care.

Exclusion criteria

Some organisations may be judged by the JLA or the Steering Group to have conflicts of interest. These may be perceived to potentially cause unacceptable bias as a member of the Steering Group. As this is likely to affect the ultimate findings of the PSP, those organisations will not be invited to participate. It is possible, however, that interested parties may participate in a purely observational capacity when the Steering Group considers it may be helpful.

The methods the PSP will use

This section describes a schedule of proposed steps through which the PSP aims to meet its objectives. The process is iterative and dependent on the active participation and contribution of different groups. The methods used in any step will be agreed through consultation between the Steering Group members, guided by the PSP’s aims and objectives. More details of the method are in the Guidebook section of the JLA website where examples of the work of other JLA PSPs can be seen.

Step 1: Identification and invitation of potential partners

Potential partner organisations will be identified through a process of peer knowledge and consultation, through the Steering Group members’ networks. Potential partners will be contacted and informed of the establishment and aims of the Co-existing Dementia and Hearing Conditions PSP.

Step 2: Awareness raising

PSPs will need to raise awareness of their proposed activity among their patient, carer and clinician communities, in order to secure support and participation. Depending on budget, this may be done by a face-to-face meeting, or there may be other ways in which the process can be launched, e.g. via social media. It may be carried out as part of steps 1 and/or 3. The Steering Group should advise on when to do this. Awareness raising has several key objectives:

  • to present the proposed plan for the PSP
  • to generate support for the process
  • to encourage participation in the process
  • to initiate discussion, answer questions and address concerns.

Step 3: Identifying evidence uncertainties

The Co-existing Dementia and Hearing Conditions PSP will carry out a consultation to gather uncertainties from patients, carers and clinicians. A period of 12-18 months will be given to complete this exercise (which may be revised by the Steering Group if required).

The Co-existing Dementia and Hearing Conditions PSP recognises that the following groups may require additional consideration. This will include ensuring that PSP documentation promotes inclusion.

  • Members of the Deaf community/People who use British Sign Language (BSL).
  • Members of communities that are often underserved by research and healthcare (e.g., Ethnic Minority Communities).
  • People with accessibility requirements that affect their participation in the PSP process, especially surveys and the consensus meeting (e.g., people with limited internet access).

The Steering Group will use the following methods to reach the target groups. These methods have been used in previous PSPs.

  • Survey 1: Gather initial uncertainties.
    Online and paper-based surveys will be provided.
    People can request different formats (e.g., large print, different font colours, BSL translations).
    Methods/formats will be reviewed periodically and adapted if required.
    Methods will be reviewed again before the 2nd survey is launched.

  • Survey 2: Interim prioritisation of the uncertainties.
    Online and paper-based surveys will be provided.
    People can request different formats (e.g., large print, different font colours, BSL translations).
    Methods/formats will be reviewed periodically and adapted if required.

  • Consensus Meeting: Final prioritisation of the uncertainties.
    Face-to-face and/or online formats will be considered, based on the attendees' preferences and requirements.

Existing sources of evidence uncertainties may also be searched. This will include research recommendations in systematic reviews and national or internationally recognised guidelines.

Step 4: Refining questions and uncertainties

The consultation process will produce ‘raw’ questions and comments indicating patients’, carers’ and clinicians’ areas of uncertainty. These raw questions will be categorised and refined by members of the research team, including Dr Helen Henshaw, Dr Eithne Heffernan, and Dr Sian Calvert, with input from the Steering Group. They will create summary questions that are clear, addressable by research, and understandable to all. Similar or duplicate questions will be combined where appropriate. Out-of-scope and ‘answered’ submissions will be compiled separately. The Steering Group will have oversight of this process to ensure that the raw data is being interpreted appropriately and that the summary questions are being worded in a way that is understandable to all audiences. The JLA Adviser will observe to ensure accountability and transparency.

This will result in a long list of in-scope summary questions. These are not research questions and to try and word them as such may make them too technical for a non-research audience. They will be framed as researchable questions that capture the themes and topics that people have suggested.

The summary questions will then be checked against evidence to determine whether they have already been answered by research. This will be done by Miss Haley Morris, Ms Alison Ashmore, and (if required with the support from) Miss Samantha Cox. The PSP will complete the JLA Question Verification Form, which clearly describes the process used to verify the uncertainty of the questions, before starting prioritisation. The Question Verification Form includes details of the types and sources of evidence used to check uncertainty. The Question Verification Form should be published on the JLA website as soon as it has been agreed to enable researchers and other stakeholders to understand how the PSP has decided that its questions are unanswered, and any limitations of this.

Questions that are not adequately addressed by previous research will be collated and recorded on a standard JLA template by Miss Haley Morris and/or PSP colleagues. This will show the checking undertaken to make sure that the uncertainties have not already been answered. The data should be submitted to the JLA for publication on its website on completion of the priority setting exercise, taking into account any changes made at the final workshop, in order to ensure that PSP results are publicly available.

The Steering Group will also consider how it will deal with submitted questions that have been answered, and questions that are out of scope.

Step 5: Prioritisation – interim and final stages

The aim of the final stage of the priority setting process is to prioritise through consensus the identified uncertainties about dementia and hearing conditions. This will involve input from patients, carers and clinicians. The JLA encourages PSPs to involve as wide a range of people as possible, including those who did and did not contribute to the first consultation. There are usually two stages of prioritisation.

  1. Prepartion for the workshop - Interim prioritisation is the stage following the survey where the long list of questions is reduced to a shorter list that can be taken to the final priority setting workshop. This is aimed at a wide audience, and is done using similar methods to the first consultation. With the JLA’s guidance, the Steering Group will agree the method and consider how best to reach and engage patients, carers and clinicians in the process. The most highly ranked questions (around 25) will be taken to a final priority setting workshop. Where the interim prioritisation does not produce a clear ranking or cut off point, the Steering Group will decide which questions are taken forwards to the final prioritisation.

  2. The final priority setting stage is generally a one-day workshop facilitated by the JLA. With guidance from the JLA and input from the Steering Group, up to 30 patients, carers and clinicians will be recruited to participate in a day of discussion and ranking, to determine the top 10 questions for research. All participants will declare their interests. The Steering Group will advise on any adaptations needed to ensure that the process is inclusive and accessible.

Dissemination of results

The Steering Group will identify audiences with which it wants to engage when disseminating the results of the priority setting process, such as researchers, funders and the patient and clinical communities. They will need to determine how best to communicate the results and who will take responsibility for this. Previous PSPs’ outputs have included academic papers, lay reports, infographics, conference presentations and videos for social media.

It should be noted that the priorities are not worded as research questions. The Steering Group should discuss how they will work with researchers and funders to establish how to address the priorities and to work out what the research questions are that will address the issues that people have prioritised. The dissemination of the results of the PSP will be led by Dr Eithne Heffernan, Dr Helen Henshaw, and Dr Sian Calvert with input from the Steering Group and Partner Group.

The JLA encourages PSPs to report back about any activities that have come about because of the PSP, including funded research. Please send any details to the JLA.

Agreement of the Steering Group

The Co-existing Dementia and Hearing Conditions PSP Steering Group agreed the content and direction of this Protocol on 19.06.23.