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Dual sensory impairment (hearing and sight)

'Dual sensory impairment' refers to people who have both sight loss and hearing loss. It is sometimes also called 'deafblindness', though some people only use this to refer to more severe impairments. Between nine and 21 per cent of adults over 70 have some level of dual sensory impairment.

People can acquire these impairments at different stages. Some people might be born deaf and blind, while others might be born with one impairment and develop a second impairment later on.

People also vary in how impaired each sense is. Some might have more abilities in one sense than another. Everyone will have different strengths and weaknesses with their vision and hearing. Because there is so much variation, strategies for living with dual sensory impairment are different for different people.

Some people are reluctant to ask for help, especially if they aren't aware of the help that is available to them. There are some warning signs that someone you know might be struggling with dual sensory impairment. Examples include:

  • they can't hear the doorbell or the phone ringing
  • you have to speak loudly for them to understand you
  • they have to have the TV up very loud
  • they have difficulty reading or looking at pictures
  • they need help going out and getting around places
  • they struggle to find lost items and may use their hands to try to find them

It can be hard to try to communicate and care for someone with dual sensory impairment, but there are a few things that can help such as:

  • touch them on the shoulder to get their attention before you start to speak to them
  • ask them how best to communicate with them - people have different levels of sensory impairments, and what might work for one person may not work for someone else.
  • face them when you talk and keep your face in good lighting
  • talk slowly and try to use short, simple sentences
  • if using writing, write clearly and in large capital letters
  • make sure there are no tripping hazards that they may not be able to see
  • be patient

There is a lot of equipment that can be used to help with everyday tasks such as:

  • hearing the doorbell
  • watching TV
  • using the phone (textphone and videophone)
  • alerting you to smoke, fire and other dangers
  • reading documents including having information provided in large print or Braille, or having a computer readinformation aloud to you at a volume you can hear).

The Disability Living Foundation's Living Made Easy website provides information on the types of equipment available.

To contact your local council and request a specialist assessment in relation to your dual sensory impairment:-

Kensington and Chelsea

Address: The Town Hall, Hornton Street, London W8 7NX
Tel (voice): 020 7361 2968
Minicom: 020 7937 7232
SMS: 07980 211335
Email: sensoryteam@rbkc.gov.uk
Fax: 020 7361 2148

Westminster 

Tel: 020 7641 1444 OR 020 7641 1175
Fax No: 020 7641 5426
Email: adultsocialcare@westminster.gov.uk

Hammersmith and Fulham 

Address: H&F Advice, Ground Floor, 145 King Street, London W6 9XY
Tel: 020 8753 4198 
Fax: 020 8753 5880
Email: h&fadvice.care@lbhf.gov.uk

Hammersmith and Fulham have produced a leaflet called Deaf Blind Services to advise people with dual sensory impairment on the support available and with details of how to get in touch

Deafblind UK and Sense are two charities who provide information, advice and support to people with dual sensory impairment, and and campaign on their behalf.