Low Vision and Hearing Loss

This is the transcript for the June episode of the Vision Rehab Podcast, Low Vision and Hearing Loss.

Hello, and thank you for joining me today on the Vision Rehab Podcast.

Hellen Keller’s birthday, on June 27 got me wondering about how we think about vision loss and hearing loss. Both are a normal part of aging. Many of us have very little exposure to individuals with a vision loss or blindness, or a profound hearing loss. As a result, we often have a great deal of anxiety related to our lack of information and the stereotypes we’ve developed over the years around blindness and deafness.

Consider these statistics. From the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders or NIDCD 25% of us between the ages of 65-74 and 50% of us over the age of 75 have a disabling hearing loss.

So if you’re over 75 with a hearing loss, you’re certainly in very good company!

According to the American Foundation for the Blind just over 1 of every 7 people over the age of 75 report a vision impairment, and BrightFocus.org reports the risk of getting advanced age-related macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of vision loss as we age, increases to 30% by age 75. So, like it or not, a lot of us will also experience a vision loss as we age.

Now, I’m not trying to make you anxious about aging by bringing up these statistics, my goal is just to be frank and open about the possibility of a vision or hearing loss, perhaps both, as we age, and to remind you that this is far more common than you might think. I also want to suggest that a vision or hearing loss, or both, doesn’t need to fit the stereotypes we may have of blindness or deafness.

Yes, Helen Keller was a remarkable writer, political activist, and someone who was determined to open doors for herself and dispel some of the stereotypes people of her time may have had about folks with both a vision hearing loss. At the same time, it’s not remarkable that an individual chooses to learn alternative skills and techniques to reach their goals—it  seems only natural. Let’s not minimize the effort it may take to learn adaptive skills to do everyday tasks after a vision or hearing loss—I just want to suggest that our ideas of what we can and can’t do with a vision impairment or hearing loss may be long overdue for an update.

There are resources and services available to get you started with adapted skills if you’ve had a recent hearing or vision loss. You might start with a vision rehab therapist near you. To find one just go to the VisionAware directory of services on the web at visionaware.org/directory. Or, if you prefer the phone, call the APH ConnectCenter at 800-232-5463. A vision rehab therapist can connect you with local services and professionals related to hearing loss, as well. You can also contact the Helen Keller National Center directly by calling 516-944-8900 or on the web at www. Helenkeller.org. And remember, you’ll find that many community agencies offer these services at no out-of-pocket cost or on a sliding scale, so they’re affordable.

Thanks so much for joining me today on this episode of the Vision Rehab Podcast. Again, my name is Steve Kelley and you can find me at lowvisiontech.com. I look forward to seeing you again on the next episode of the Vision Rehab Podcast. Have a wonderful day!

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