What is acquired dual sensory loss/ deafblindness?

Acquired dual sensory loss, sometimes called age acquired deafblindness, occurs mostly as part of getting older – 78% of dual sensory impaired people are over the age of 60. The biggest impact, without appropriate support, is isolation and depression.

It is different to being congenitally deafblind or becoming dual sensory impaired at a young age.

Acquiring dual sensory loss as part of ageing means not having grown up with alternate skills and strategies to navigate the world around you. Often there is some residual sight and or hearing that can be used although not to the extent you used to be able to do when you were younger – reading, getting out and about unsupported, listening to the radio. Such activities, though now even more important to health and wellbeing, will largely be difficult or impossible – without informed support and advice.

To put things into more context, first of all let us consider a child born deaf or becoming deafened at an early age.

They will nowadays either be offered a cochlear implant, taught sign language or fitted with hearing aids at a time in their development when they will be able to adapt to get the best possible use from them.

What are Acquired Communication Disorders?

The work of our sister project and organisation came across many older deafblind people with other communication problems that had been “hidden” by their dual sensory loss.

They came across many older deafblind people who had suffered a stroke or had dementia, for example, that made communication extremely challenging for them and those needing to communicate with them.

We find many older deafblind people have other communication problems that have been “hidden” by their dual sensory loss. For example deafblind people who have suffered a stroke or have dementia making communication extremely challenging for them and those supporting them.

Despite low awareness there is a clear and urgent need for training. In the UK it is estimated that of 150,000 new stroke victims each year, 50,000 have a communication problem; as many as 250,000 have aphasia (difficulty understanding or processing speech or language); around 120,000 people have Parkinson’s disease.

These are conservative numbers and they rise dramatically with age, especially as more of us are living longer.

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As we get older we will all experience problems with our sight and hearing, simply because we are living longer. Chances are someone close to you – family, friend or neighbour, is finding life difficult now both their sight and hearing are affected.

If you know someone (or if that someone is you) who may need help, contact HiVisUK, details on the Contact page, for free impartial advice.

Just click “take the test” below.

Did you know, anyone struggling with both their sight and hearing can ask to see a specially trained person from their local authority to look at their needs and talk about what might help?

Snippets from our Social Return On Investment (SROI) acquired dual sensory loss research project

“It is also noted that almost 40% of respondents reported finding the training useful in their personal lives with family, friends or neighbours who are deafblind. This indicates added value to the training increasing the numbers of deafblind people being supported either informally or formally in a work setting.”

From our SROI research interviews.
From our SROI research interviews.Our learners talking about what our training means to them.

“Much of this equipment (to support an older deafblind person) is small scale, inexpensive and practical yet deafblind people appear to have little awareness of the availability of such equipment. The training has raised awareness of carers, support staff and others, with the result that deafblind people are beginning to benefit from the use of such equipment. This finding is now being confirmed by deafblind people.”

From our SROI research interviews.
From our SROI research interviews.How our training raises awareness about equipment for daily living tasks.

“…there are also early indications that the knowledge/experience and changing practices not only improve services and support but could ultimately create cost savings/save money…respondents reported that their organisation had been able to save money as a result of the knowledge gained in the training.”

From our SROI research interviews.
From our SROI research interviews.Evidencing how our work is improving services.

“A large majority of respondents who have completed one or more of the training courses report positively as to the design, quality and content of the training. Respondents also report that the training has improved not only their knowledge and understanding but also their confidence in working with and supporting deafblind people. This increase in confidence appears to be pivotal in how they do this.”

From our SROI research interviews.
From our SROI research interviews.Learners commenting on how our courses can build a more confident workforce.