Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-5-2016


Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education



Dual sensory impairment (DSI) is a combination of vision and hearing impairments that represents a unique disability affecting all aspects of a person’s life. The rates of DSI are expected to increase due to population aging, yet little is known about DSI among older adults (65+). The prevalence of DSI and client characteristics were examined among two groups, namely, older adults receiving home care services or those residing in a long-term care (LTC) facility in four countries (Canada, US, Finland, Belgium).


Existing data, using an interRAI assessment, were analyzed to compare older adults with DSI to all others across demographic characteristics, functional and psychosocial outcomes.


In home care, the prevalence of DSI across the four countries ranged from 13.4% to 24.6%; in LTC facilities, it ranged from 9.7% to 33.9%. Clients with DSI were more likely to be 85+, have moderate/severe cognitive impairment, impairments in activities of daily living, and have communication difficulties. Among residents of LTC facilities, individuals with DSI were more likely to be 85+ and more likely have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Having DSI increased the likelihood of depression in both care settings, but after adjusting for other factors, it remained significant only in the home care sample.


While the prevalence of DSI cross nationally is similar to that of other illnesses such as diabetes, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease, we have a limited understanding of its affects among older adults. Raising awareness of this unique disability is imperative to insure that individuals receive the necessary rehabilitation and supportive services to improve their level of independence and quality of life.