Dual Sensory Impairment (DSI)

Dual Sensory Impairment (DSI), sometimes called age acquired deafblindness or combined sight and hearing loss, occurs mostly as part of getting older – 78% of people with DSI 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 before adulthood.

Acquiring DSI as part of ageing means not having grown up with, not having been trained in, alternative skills and strategies to navigate and take part in 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, now even more important to your health and wellbeing, will largely be difficult or impossible or frightening – unless you get informed support and advice and training to manage your DSI, to learn new ways to navigate the world around you.

To put things into context, consider a child born deaf or becoming deafened at an early age. Nowadays they could be offered a cochlear implant or other surgical intervention, learn sign language or be fitted with hearing aids at a time in their development when they will be able to adapt to get the best possible use from this type of support. They might also have benefited from skilled teaching support at school.

Acquired Communication Disorders (ACD)

The work of our sister project and organisation came across many older people with DSI who also had other acquired communication disorders (ACD) that had been “hidden” by their dual sensory loss.

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

We find many older people with DSI like this who have other communication problems that are “hidden” behind their dual sensory impairment. .

Because of extremely low awareness of both DSI and acquired communication disorders amongst professionals and the general population 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, and numbers will continue to grow as more of us are living longer with long term health conditions.

Try our 10-minute DSI ID Tool


Try our 10-minute checklist – it might just make a world of difference.

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 increasingly difficult now that both their sight and hearing are affected. Chances are they don’t realise themselves how much it is affecting their daily life.

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

Just click “Use our ID tool” 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?

Evaluation Findings: our training really works!

“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.”

“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.”

“…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.”

“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.”