This Deafblind Awareness Week, we’re asking everyone to tune into your sight and hearing. This means being aware of the signs of sight and hearing loss, getting your eyes and ears tested and getting support as soon as you need it. Deafblind awareness week take place from Monday 26th June to Sunday 2nd July.
Everyone experiences sight and hearing loss in different ways. For many people, changes will be subtle and over a long period of time. This can make it hard to identify, and can lead to deafblindness being mis-diagnosed.
A lady once came up to our stand at a low vision event. She had sight impairments and was wearing two hearing aids, indicating to that she was hard of hearing. She saw that we were representing Deafblind UK and said to me “wouldn’t it be awful to be deafblind, those poor people!” What she didn’t realise was that she herself was actually one of nearly 400,000 deafblind people in the UK.
Despite common misconceptions, deafblindness actually means a combined sight and hearing impairment to the point where someone’s communication, mobility and ability to access information are impacted. Deafblindness comes on a huge spectrum ranging from someone struggling to see and hear the TV right through to them not being able to see or hear anything at all. However, many people with deafblindness are able to hear and/or see something.
It’s always a good idea to get regular sight and hearing checks, even if you don’t think there are any problems. Opticians and audiologists can pick up on any changes to your eye and ear health before they start to impact your lifestyle.
Many people don’t identify themselves as being ‘deafblind’ but are aware that they “can’t see and hear as well as they used to”. It is important for us all to recognise the signs of sight and hearing impairments in ourselves and in our friends and family – and to understand that support is available if we need it.
Dual sensory loss is a completely different condition to a sight loss plus a hearing loss. An easy way to think of this is to imagine hearing impairment as the colour blue and visual impairment as the colour yellow. When the two sensory impairments, or in this case the colours blue and yellow, come together they become something new –dual sensory impairment or in this analogy – green; a totally new colour with different properties.
Early signs of deafblindness include:
- Difficulty reading books and newspapers or watching TV
- Difficulty recognising people, particularly in unexpected situations
- Being uncomfortable in bright and/or low lighting
- Finding it hard to read facial expressions
- Being unable to find something that you have lost without using your hands or asking for help
- Finding it difficult to move around in unfamiliar places or in familiar places that have changed
- Asking people to repeat themselves or to speak louder
- Difficulty hearing the TV or radio or music and/or having the volume turned up high
- Not hearing the doorbell or the telephone ringing
- Complaining that people are mumbling or speaking too quickly
- Finding it hard to understand unfamiliar people
- Avoiding using the phone
Realising that you may have a dual sensory impairment can leave you with questions and concerns. At Deafblind UK, we support people with any level of combined sight and hearing loss to carry on as normal. Sometimes this means advising people about a new household tricks and tips to make their life easier (such as using daylight bulbs, bump-on stickers or other basic equipment) or it might mean we show you how to use accessibility features on an iPad so you can do your shopping online, for example.
Many of our services are free of charge and include practical advice and information; emotional support for you and your family; help with digital technology; use of our accessible holiday caravans; social groups and companionship.
If you’ve got any questions about sight and hearing loss, you can contact the Deafblind UK helpline via phone, email, SMS and BSL, and speak to a friendly member of our team.
We can answer any questions you might have and give helpful, practical advice. For example, how to personalise your phone or tablet to make it easier to use, or how to talk to a loved one about sight and hearing loss.
Call: 0800 132 320