Ear, Nose, Throat… and Eyes?

The combination of both hearing and vision impairment, referred to as dual-sensory impairment (DSI) is a chronic condition becoming more prevalent as the baby boomers reach older ages. In urban areas, such as New York City, with more resources available for hospital and rehabilitative care, the recognition of DSI is significantly greater than in suburban or rural parts of the country. DSI can negatively impact physical function, communication, social skills, and emotional well-being. Daily, a person with both vision and hearing loss may have a harder time performing simple tasks independently, such as getting dressed in the morning or cooking meals. In addition, risk for cognitive decline, depression, social isolation, falls, comorbid chronic conditions, and mortality increase (Schneider, Gopinath, McMahon, Leeder, Mitchell, & Wang, 2011).

Vision issues will immediately cause concern and an appointment with an eye doctor, whereas hearing issues, unless sudden, tend to be overlooked for longer. If you have vision impairment, it is good practice to obtain a baseline hearing test during your office visit at ENT and Allergy Associates. Identifying dual-sensory impairment provides our physicians and audiologists with valuable information and greater opportunity to properly diagnose, treat, and refer patients for further care.

If a history of cigarette smoking or type 2 diabetes exists, a person will be at greater risk for developing concurrent vision and hearing impairment. Smoking can increase risk for macular degeneration and cataract (Schneider et al., 2012). The four most common causes of vision loss in the elderly are: age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, cataract, and diabetic retinopathy (Quillen, 1999).

Obtaining a hearing test for individuals with a known vision impairment, will also enable our audiologists to begin conversation surrounding hearing conservation and hearing loss rehabilitation. Addressing hearing loss early helps to minimize the potential negative impact of sensory deficit on activities of daily living, quality of life, cognitive function, and emotional well-being. The audiologist toolkit is vast with questionnaires and tests to assess these functions, as well as hearing aids and assistive listening devices to address hearing loss before it contributes to a more serious cognitive decline. Let us work together to increase identification of dual-sensory impairment and use ENT and Allergy Associates healthcare professionals and resources to improve quality of life for a growing elderly population.


Malawer, Abby F., "A Systematic Review of Dual-Sensory Impairment in Older Adults" (2016). CUNY Academic Works. https://academicworks.cuny.edu/gc_etds/1277

Quillen, D. A. (1999). Common causes of vision loss in elderly patients. American

Family Physician, 60(1), 99-108.

Schneider, J. M., Gopinath, B., McMahon, C. M., Leeder, S. R., Mitchell, P., & Wang, J.

J. (2011). Dual sensory impairment in older age. Journal of aging and health,


Schneider, J., Gopinath, B., McMahon, C., Teber, E., Leeder, S. R., Wang, J. J., &

Mitchell, P. (2012). Prevalence and 5-year incidence of dual sensory impairment

in an older Australian population. Annals of epidemiology22(4), 295-301.

Weinstein, B. E. (2013). Geriatric Audiology. 2nd Edition. Thieme Medical Publishers.

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