Dual sensory loss (DSL), a medical term referring to the loss of both hearing and sight, may seem like an extreme occurrence that is unlikely to ever happen to you or someone you love. Unfortunately, according to statistics, this is far from the case. The general population of the United States is aging, and as we get older, our likelihood of dual sensory loss increases. By the year 2030 -- just 9 years from now -- researchers project that as many as 14 million Americans could be living with DSL. These older adults could actually lose 10 years of their potential lifespan as a result of DSL, making this an especially frightening possibility to consider.
At Hearing Unlimited, nothing is more important to us than educating patients on why hearing loss prevention is so important to maintaining overall health as they age. Here are a few ways dual sensory loss can negatively impact your life:
Daily Tasks Become Difficult
Individually, an impairment to sight or hearing can both have an impact on your or your loved one’s ability to go about an average day. With this in mind, think of how drastic the effects of a combination of the two could be. Those living with dual sensory loss can expect to see a dramatic decrease in their ability to perform basic physical functions, such as maintaining their balance or being able to operate a vehicle.
Communicating Can Be a Challenge
Unfortunately, a loss of daily function due to dual sensory loss can also extend to cognitive tasks like communication via telephone, Internet, or even in person. Over time, hearing loss can have acute effects on one’s ability to communicate orally; the speech of others becomes difficult to understand, and sometimes even slurred as “th” and “s” sounds are difficult to hear. Some patients with age-related hearing loss even develop tinnitus, which can easily become an irritating obstacle to a conversation. Many patients with this type of hearing loss are able to compensate using other sensory cues, such as lip-reading and interpreting others’ body language to fill in the gaps left by their inability to hear. When DSL causes an additional vision impairment, most of these coping mechanisms become unavailable.
Risk of Dementia May Increase
All of the effects of DSL we’ve discussed thus far can actually compound to increase you or your loved one’s risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In today’s world, an inability to communicate remotely due to DSL can lead to frustration, and eventually extreme isolation when one decides to give up their social life. This leaves older adults vulnerable not just to injury, but mental disuse that can lead to cognitive decline and further sensory loss, the effects of which the team at Hearing Unlimited has discussed at length in our previous blog posts. Dual sensory loss can also affect your brain’s health in another way: those who experience a loss of vision and hearing are significantly more likely to struggle with anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.
You’re More Likely to Have a Fall
One of the scariest statistics relating to dual sensory loss has little to do with your eyes and ears: it’s about your ability to maintain balance and avoid injury as a result of a deadly fall. Nearly 9,500 annual deaths in America’s older adults are associated with a fall. When around 85% of all cases of vertigo and other difficulties maintaining balance are reported as a result of inner ear troubles, the correlation between DSL and falling becomes quite clear. Additionally, both hearing loss and vision loss present a challenge when moving around the world and perceiving your surroundings. Patients with DSL often struggle with spatial orientation and hazard avoidance, putting them at an even higher risk for taking a deadly fall.
As you or your loved ones get older, it’s important to understand that dual sensory loss is dangerous, and it’s not a possibility to take lightly. That said, neither hearing loss nor vision loss is a natural result of aging, and both are preventable in partnership with your audiologist and ophthalmologist. Next month, we’ll discuss the ways in which you can take charge of your hearing and vision health.
If your current audiologist has made the difficult decision to close their doors, call Hearing Unlimited. Although we are closed to walk-ins, we are open for normal hours of operation, and we are following strict protocols to keep our environment safe while we continue to serve our patients.
The audiologists at Hearing Unlimited have the expertise to help you maintain your hearing health and prevent injury during this crucial time. Get your healthy hearing plan started today - contact us online or by phone to schedule an appointment, and be sure to take advantage of our services and resources.