Take a second to imagine your grandparents or some of your oldest relatives. You’re probably filled with love at the thought of seeing them and interacting with them, but the challenges of speaking with them may also come to mind. Namely, our oldest family members often can’t hear or see as well as we can.
In fact, many older people experience both hearing and vision loss. This concurrence has led some scientists to investigate whether these two types of sensory loss are related. Certain syndromes can indeed cause this simultaneous sensory loss, and both hearing and vision loss can have similar consequences. Learn more with the below guide to how hearing and vision loss do and don’t overlap.
How are vision loss and hearing loss similar?
Hearing loss and vision loss are similar in that roughly one in every five adults age 75 or older experiences both. Hearing loss and vision loss may also lead to two similar types of life changes if you’re experiencing them:
- Decreased ability to socialize. Seeing and hearing difficulties are known to make those experiencing them less social, as conversations are challenging if you can’t hear what’s being said or perceive body language. Additionally, vision loss can be especially devastating if you have hearing loss and rely on lip-reading. Without full vision, you may struggle to accurately read lips and understand conversations.
- Increased risk of dementia. The lack of brain stimulation that accompanies withdrawal from social life is also a risk factor for dementia. This correlation makes both hearing loss and vision loss potential dementia causes. It could also mean that hearing and vision loss can lead to other types of cognitive decline. However, research points more strongly to hearing than vision as related to cognitive decline.
Hearing loss and vision loss have similar consequences. But are they related?
Although hearing loss and vision loss can have a similar impact on your life or the life of your loved one, there’s no scientific evidence suggesting that one can cause the other. However, certain genetic conditions can cause deaf-blindness. The vision loss associated with these conditions does not cause the hearing loss associated with them or vice versa.
Which genetic conditions cause combined hearing and vision loss?
The genetic condition that most commonly causes simultaneous hearing and vision loss is Usher syndrome. This condition causes roughly half of all genetic deaf-blindless cases. It usually manifests as moderate to profound hearing loss at birth (it does not typically develop in adulthood). Its initial visual symptoms include night blindness and, over time, the loss of peripheral vision. Eventually, only central vision will remain, resulting in a narrow field of sight.
Fortunately, Usher syndrome isn’t common. Experts estimate its prevalence as at most 17 in every 100,000 people, or 0.017 percent of the population. Other deaf-blindness genetic disorders, all of which are less prevalent than Usher syndrome, include congenital rubella syndrome, CHARGE syndrome, retinopathy of prematurity, and Norrie disease.
How to address hearing loss and vision loss
Ophthalmologists are best qualified to address vision loss, whereas audiologists like us at I Love Hearing are your go-to for hearing loss. We always recommend that, if you’re concerned about hearing loss, you contact one of our audiologists for a hearing test. You won’t experience any pain, as hearing tests are non-invasive, fast, and straightforward. You’ll simply listen to sounds and speech, then respond accordingly.
If we detect hearing loss, we’ll recommend that you get professionally-fitted hearing aids, as they’re the best way to bridge the gap that hearing loss leaves behind. Plus, at I Love Hearing, we’re not just a team of audiologists happy to test your hearing no matter your age. We’re home to hearing aid specialists who have decades of experience finding exactly the right hearing aids for anyone’s needs.
Here at I Love Hearing, we’re experts in building and sticking to a thorough treatment plan no matter the extent of your hearing loss. We’ll also test and fit your hearing aids so your hearing is restored from the get-go. Plus, if you bring someone with you to your appointment, we’ll offer a free hearing test for that person too!
Contact the New York audiologists at I Love Hearing to schedule a hearing exam and keep your ears sharp no matter your age. In our hands, your hearing loss will have minimal impact on your life – and with your hearing restored, you can move onto addressing your vision loss too.