About combined hearing and vision loss
More than 1.5 million people in the United States live with both significant hearing and vision loss. This is sometimes referred to as dual sensory loss.
People with dual sensory loss may call themselves DeafBlind or deaf-blind. Others may describe themselves as having combined hearing and vision loss. Dual sensory loss is a spectrum disorder, meaning that each person’s situation is unique. No two people have exactly the same degree of type and degree of vision and hearing loss.
People can experience dual sensory loss at any age. Causes include illness, injury and family genetics, such as Usher Syndrome. Aging is another common cause. In fact, seniors represent the largest and fastest-growing population with dual sensory loss.
It is important to remember that most people with significant hearing and vision loss have some remaining hearing or vision that they can access. The best communication option will depend on the person’s type and degree of hearing and vision loss, how the person communicates, and the communication environment.
For example, people with significant vision loss who lose all or part of their hearing after learning to speak may continue to express themselves through speech. They may need a new way to receive language. Options may include:
- Using large print options
- Reading and writing in braille
- Tracing the shapes of letters on the palm of a person who is DeafBlind (known as print-on-palm).
As another example, people with significant hearing loss who lose all or part of their vision after learning American Sign Language may continue to use ASL to express themselves. They may need a new way to receive information. Options may include:
- Tactile sign language
- Signing within the person’s field of vision
- ProTactile communication.
Additional tools for independence
- Assistive technology such as screen readers and braille readers make telecommunications equipment, tablets, computers, cell phones and other mobile technology accessible. This is useful to communicate with people who are unfamiliar with more specialized communication methods.
- Interpreting services can greatly expand a person’s access to education and employment or vocational training. Interpreters also provide access to community, social, recreational, and cultural events. Interpreters are vital in critical situations, such as counseling, medical care, and interactions with law enforcement or the legal system.
- Support service providers (SSP) are trained guides who communicate visual information to people who are DeafBlind. An SSP may accompany a person who is DeafBlind on trips to the bank, community events, shopping and other errands.
- Other tools for independence and personal safety include canes, special transportation services and guide dogs. Always remember that you should never pet or play with a working guide dog.