This week you may have seen the news that the actress June Brown (known to many as Dot Branning in EastEnders) has been experiencing problems with her sight and hearing. The reality is that June Brown isn’t alone, in fact Sense estimates that there are more than 250,000 people aged over 70 who have difficulties with both sight and hearing. This number is estimated to grow to nearly half a million by 2030. With statistics such as these, it’s likely that we all know someone who has problems with both their sight and hearing (or will ourselves).
As we get older many of us will start to develop problems with our hearing and vision; the combination of which can cause problems with mobility, communication and access to information. In the beginning you might find that you need glasses, or turn the volume up on the TV and notice that everyone seems to speak more quickly these days.
Now, before I go any further it’s important to point out that I’m not saying or suggesting that a dual sensory loss means you can’t lead an active life – in fact it’s completely the opposite. Whilst many people think this is ‘just something that happens with age’ and that ‘nothing can be done’, people can continue to live full and active lives. Even if there’s no cure for the sight and hearing problems, support is available to enable people to continue enjoying life.
Liz Duncan, Sense’s Head of Acquired Deafblindness recalls:
“I remember meeting an elderly lady who was having difficulty with her hearing and sight. She had had hearing aids for a number of years and, following receiving a diagnosis of an irreversible sight loss condition, lost her confidence and stopped attending social activities, family gatherings and even visiting her GP. After meeting with her, talking her through her diagnosis, explaining some of the services that were available to her and other things that would help her to remain independent, everything changed. She realised that her life wasn’t over and that with a few adjustments she could participate in everything she had before – and more! She now regularly visits friends, volunteers for local groups and even provides training to GPs and others on how to support people with dual sensory loss.”
Sense has produced a checklist to help identify if someone has a dual sensory loss (you could also fill this in for yourself). If you think that you or someone you know has a dual sensory loss here are some important things to consider:
- Get your hearing and sight checked by a professional; contact your GP if you’re not sure how to arrange this. The Sense website has information some of the ways that hearing and eyesight can be checked.
- Very often, the hearing and sight loss can be helped by hearing aids, glasses, or even medications in some situations, but it’s important to be aware that there are lots of practical pieces of equipment that can also be very useful.
- Good communication tactics are always very important, and often help those who don’t have a sensory loss as well!
- Anybody who has a dual sensory loss which is affecting communication, mobility and access to information is entitled to a specialist assessment by the local authority to see if there’s any support that could be provided. Some people, for example, will benefit from services such as a communicator guide.
There are lots of simple things that can be done to make a big impact for people with sensory loss. Sense has recently launched Enjoy Life; a comprehensive guide on how to support older people with dual sensory loss. For more information on the
services that Sense offers or to order a print copy of Enjoy Life contact our Information and Advice team.