Dual Sensory Impairment (Deafblindness)

Dual sensory impairment and ‘deafblind’ are terms to describe a combined sight and hearing impairment. There are varying degrees of combined sight and hearing impairments.

A person is regarded as deafblind if their combined sight and hearing impairment causes difficulties with communication, access to information, and mobility. This includes people with a progressive sight and hearing loss.

Estimates suggest that there are over 15,000 people with a dual sensory impairment in Essex.

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. It is important that vision and hearing are checked regularly, so that any changes are identified early.

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, and strategies for living with dual sensory impairment are different for different people.

Signs that someone might have a dual sensory impairment

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:

  • They can’t hear the doorbell or the phone ringing.
  • You have to speak loudly for them to understand you.
  • They have the TV volume 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.

What can you do to help someone with dual sensory impairment?

  • Touch them on the shoulder or arm to get their attention before you start to speak.
  • 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.
  • If using writing, write clearly and in large capital letters.
  • Make sure there are no trip hazards that they may not be able to see.