The chief complaint made my heart skip a beat: a patient with mild dementia who is now hearing voices. Oh no. Is he developing new psychotic symptoms? Has he begun wandering? Leaving the stove on? Has sundowning become an issue? Hopefully he’ll bring someone else along so I’ll be able to get a fuller picture of his overall behavior.
I walk in the room; greet the patient.
What’s going on? I ask.
“I’ve been hearing voices, Doctor.”
Tell me more.
“It started three days ago, and it’s only in my left ear.”
Strange. But I have to find out more.
Do the voices ever tell you to hurt yourself or other people?
What are they saying?
“They just say ‘Battery’. Every five minutes or so. ‘Battery’.”
Hm. Anything else?
“Well, about six months ago I got this new fancy hearing aid. Top of the line. Really high tech.”
I see. Um, which ear is that?
Okay then. My recommendation is that you consult your audiologist about servicing your new hearing aid.
“Really? What’s wrong with it?”
I think it’s telling you it needs a new battery.