Despite the impact of hearing and vision loss in older adults and its increasing prevalence, patients aged 64 and older who receive sensory rehabilitation services tend to have overall good health and a high level of independence, according to a team of Canadian researchers. Their study, published online as part of ARVO’s 2020 meeting, also reports that dual sensory loss is not always associated with worse outcomes compared with a single sensory loss; instead, it varies on the task and the comparison group. 

The researchers used a survey to assess the health of 200 adults who were aged 64 or older, had visual, hearing or dual sensory loss, and were receiving sensory rehabilitation. The researchers also considered variables related to demographics, sensory loss and several areas of health and functioning.

The study reported all three groups showed high functioning in cognition, communication, daily living activities, mental health and social relationships. However, the comparisons among groups had mixed outcomes. The dual sensory loss group was more likely to have reduced independence on instrumental activities of daily living compared with the hearing loss group, but when compared with patients with visual loss only. In contrast, participants with dual sensory loss were less likely to experience depressive symptoms than those with visual loss and showed similar results to those with hearing loss.

The study’s findings may not pertain to individuals who aren’t receiving rehabilitation, the researchers caution. Further research is needed in older adults with dual sensory loss who have more severe sensory and cognitive difficulties or in those who are not receiving rehabilitation services, they add.

Alfaro AU, Guthrie DM, McGraw C, Wittich W. Older adults receiving rehabilitation for combined vision and hearing impairment report good levels of functional ability and well-being. ARVO 2020 meeting. Abstract #1933.