Communication and psychosocial consequences of sensory loss in older adults: overview and rehabilitation directions

Disabil Rehabil. 2002 Oct 15;24(15):763-73. doi: 10.1080/09638280210129162.


With increasing longevity among populations, age-related vision and hearing impairments are becoming prevalent conditions in the older adult populations. In combination dual sensory loss occurs. Dual sensory loss is becoming a more common condition seen by clinicians and previous research has shown that 6% of non-institutionalized older adults had a dual sensory impairment, whilst 70% of severely vision-impaired older adults also demonstrated a significant hearing loss. Decreased vision and/or hearing acuity interferes with reception of the spoken message and hence people with sensory loss frequently experience communication breakdown. Many personal, situational and environmental triggers are also responsible for communication breakdown. Limited ability to improve communication performance frequently results in poor psychosocial functioning. Older adults with sensory loss often experience difficulty adjusting to their sensory loss. Depression, anxiety, lethargy and social dissatisfaction are often reported. Sensory loss, decreased communication performance and psychosocial functioning impacts on one's quality of life and feelings of well-being. Rehabilitation services for older adults with age-related sensory loss need to accommodate these difficulties. Improved staff education and rehabilitation programmes providing clients and carers with strategies to overcome communication breakdown is required. A multidisciplinary perspective to the assessment and remediation of older adults is recommended.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Communication*
  • Hearing Loss / epidemiology
  • Hearing Loss / psychology*
  • Hearing Loss / rehabilitation
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Psychosocial Deprivation
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Behavior
  • Vision, Low / epidemiology
  • Vision, Low / psychology*
  • Vision, Low / rehabilitation