Persons Aging with Hearing and Vision Loss

Project Summary

The National Research and Training Center (NRTC) on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University (MSU), in collaboration with San Diego State University (SDSU), and the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC) in Sands Point, NY, established a consortium Disability & Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP) on Persons Aging with Hearing & Vision Loss funded by a grant from the national Institute of Disability Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR Grant # H133A020701). The collaborative effort has focused on the exploration of strategies to improve outcomes for persons who are blind or visually impaired or who are Deaf or hard of hearing and who are now experiencing a secondary onset of hearing loss or vision impairment as a result of the aging process. The DRRP has conducted a variety of research and training activities, and now is working on the dissemination phase of the project. This web site contains a variety of information related to the 3 research priorities of the Project and the Training that has evolved from those activities as well as resources for consumers, their families and service providers.

The research component of the study has focused on gathering information from several sources: small focus groups and a nationally representative study sample of consumers over the age of 55 with both hearing and vision loss, service providers and vendors of assistive technology used by persons with sensory loss.

The exploratory research has concentrated on 4 major priorities that investigated how persons with vision and hearing loss, especially those who lost one sense before age 55, and one after age 55, cope with the challenges of maintaining their independence and continuing involvement in their communities. Specific areas to be addressed include employment, use of assistive technology and communications systems, transportation, housing, specialized services, and psycho-social adjustment to sensory loss.

The 4 research priorities mandates funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), were stated as follows:

  • Priority 1 - Prevalence Study

    Investigate the prevalence of age-related onset of deafness among older American blind individuals and age-related onset of blindness among older American deaf individuals and the impact on the employment and community integration options, including more viable communication systems for each population;

  • Priority 2 - Technology and Service Delivery Options

    Identify and evaluate technology and service delivery options, such as transportation, housing, and community integration activities for individuals with early onset deafness or blindness and late onset hearing or vision loss and their effectiveness with persons experiencing secondary sensory loss resulting from aging;

  • Priority 3 - Access to Technology and Service Delivery

    Identify and evaluate access to use of technologies, including assistive devices and telecommunication or other existing communication systems, such as tactile interpreter support, needed to assist persons with early onset deafness or blindness and late onset hearing or vision loss and their effectiveness with persons experiencing secondary sensory loss resulting from aging.

  • Priority 4 - Psycho-social Adjustment

    This particular priority was developed by a committee of older consumers with both hearing and vision loss known as the Participatory Action Research (PAR) Team, and the charge was to identify specific areas of psycho-social adjustment that are particularly challenging to persons with hearing and vision loss and investigate what is being done to address these issues.

Dissemination and Training

The training and dissemination phases of the project continue to be implemented. The first phase included 2 national conferences in 2006 and 2007, and on-line resources through this website in addition to numerous journal articles and presentations.

Guidance and oversight of the Project was provided by a Participatory Action Research (PAR) Team comprised of older persons with hearing and vision loss who represent major consumer organizations of persons who are blind, deaf or Deafblind.

Results from the Project Newsletters: