SCIE Research briefing 21: Identification of deafblind dual sensory impairment in older people

By Diane Roberts, Thomas Scharf, Miriam Bernard and Peter Crome

Published August 2007


This briefing focuses on issues relating to the identification of people over the age of 60 in the UK who have dual sensory loss in the form of a combined hearing and sight impairment (deafblind). People are defined by the Department of Health (DH) as deafblind '…if their combined sight and hearing impairment cause difficulties with communication, access to information and mobility…’.

Key messages

  • Rising life expectancy and increasing numbers of older people in the population means a growing number of individuals are affected by dual sensory impairment.
  • Raising general awareness of problems and potential solutions is essential to maximising individual quality of life and minimising social isolation.
  • Dual sensory impairment in older people may be seen as 'normal’ and not identified as problematic or as a disability.
  • Simple interventions, such as ensuring regular sight and hearing checks or holding conversations in well-lit areas, can be very effective in improving the quality of life of people with dual sensory impairment,
  • Families, carers and other 'non-specialists’ can play a crucial role in early identification, hopefully leading to appropriate and timely interventions.


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  • Identification of deafblind dual sensory impairment in older people