What to do When You Meet a Person with Combined Vision and Hearing Loss

A black and white photo with a light blue background with a diversified group of about 25 people of all different ethnicities, ages, genders and styles of clothing. A few people are in color including a young woman in the front of the group with her guide dog, a man holding a white cane and a man wearing headphones. Photo provided by HKNC National Center

For Helen Keller DeafBlind Awareness week, celebrated June 26-July 2, APH VisionAware is highlighting information on combined hearing and vision loss.

To provide perspective on the magnitude of combined hearing and vision loss in this country, recent studies report that people who are blind or low vision are twice as likely to be deaf or hard of hearing than those who are fully sighted. The prevalence of combined hearing and vision loss increases greatly with age and over 50% of people 65 and older with vision loss also indicate they have hearing loss (VisionServe Alliance (2022). United States’ Older Population and Vision Loss: A Briefing, St. Louis).    

Knowing that such a large number of older people who are blind/low vision also experience hearing loss, it is critical to understand what to do when encountering a person with combined hearing and vision loss.

Encountering a Person with Combined Hearing and Vision Loss

For DeafBlind Awareness week, the Helen Keller National Center for DeafBlind Youths and Adults (HKNC) has provided APH VisionAware  “Tips for Living with Combined Hearing and Vision Loss.” Although geared toward the person with hearing and vision loss, these tips can help everyone when working with or encountering a person with dual sensory loss.

Some of the highlights include:

  • Speak naturally and clearly, enunciating words without shouting. Talk directly to the person without objects or hands in front of your face.
  • Gently tap the person on the shoulder and remain in one place until they locate you.
  • Say the person’s name before talking. (Ex: Hi, Joe, it’s John. How are you today?).
  • Stay close by when talking but don’t encroach on personal space.
  • Stand or sit near the person’s better ear.
  • Be patient if asked to repeat what you were saying.
  • Let the person know when you are leaving the room.
  • Provide visual and environmental Information about the space, noise level, activities, and what others are doing and how.

The tip sheet also includes information about eating out, watching television, useful devices, and resources such as HKNC and their regional offices, and financial assistance for hearing aids and other equipment.

Learn More

To encourage awareness about the DeafBlind community,
HKNC offering the following courses for free from 6/26-7/2.

  • Tech Solutions for Older Adults: TechSolutions4683
  • Ensuring Access to Communication: DirectProviders752
  • Assistive Tech in the Workplace: AssistiveTechFREE937
  • Equal Access and Participation: EnsuringAccess8345

Enter the corresponding code during checkout to access the course for free.

If you have any questions, you can contact us at: [email protected]

Or visit helenkeller.org for more information.

**Note: The HKNC DeafBlind poster also states, “Creativity and innovation are built upon a diverse group of perspectives. Who better to help initiate that innovation than the DeafBlind community, a group of people whose lives are driven by the pursuit of change and innovation?” Additionally, A blue circle with the words “DeafBlind Awareness” is to the right of the group of people in the original poster.

Learn More