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Dual Sensory Loss

They have both impaired sight and hearing. It is called dual sensory loss and specialists are finding that more people--especially older people--suffer from it than anyone had expected. In Little Rock, Arkansas, Dr. Jess Dancer, who earned his Ed.D. in audiology at Teachers College, Columbia University, is identifying people who suffer from dual sensory loss, as he works to take audiology out of the clinic and into the home.

For these individuals, the world is a darkening place that is also growing ever more silent.

They have both impaired sight and hearing. It is called dual sensory loss and specialists are finding that more people--especially older people--suffer from it than anyone had expected.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, Dr. Jess Dancer, who earned his Ed.D. in audiology at Teachers College, Columbia University, is identifying people who suffer from dual sensory loss, as he works to take audiology out of the clinic and into the home.

Visiting Pulaski County residents who have been identified as visually impaired by the Arkansas State Services for the Blind, Dr. Dancer--a professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR)--is also testing them for hearing loss. Assisted by two graduate students, he will test between 80 and 100 people during the next few months.

But he has already found that "about half of the people with vision loss that we have tested have also had some hearing impairment as well."

Home-site testing is relatively new for audiologists, Dr. Dancer said. "We have usually asked people to come into the clinic for testing because audiology as a field grew up around the big, sound proof booth."

Today, even the booth can be portable, and changes in technology have made it possible for audiologists to complete at least the basic tests of hearing just about anywhere. Taking the testing into the home is a way of reaching out to some people who feel trapped.

"In the past, we didn't even know that some of these people existed," Dr. Dancer said. "When elderly people have trouble seeing and hearing, there is a good chance that they don't interact with the public in places like community centers or even churches. They stay home."

When Dr. Dancer and his students visit such people, they tell them what kind of technological help is now available to them, "and we try to re-involve them in the community."

Dual sensory loss means that some traditional treatments for one sense impairment will not work, Dr. Dancer said. "If someone is only hearing-impaired, you might help that person learn to read lips, but, if that person is also visually impaired, he won't be able to see the lips." Someone who is visually impaired also may have trouble manipulating the controls on hearing aids. "There will come a time when we have braille on hearing aids," Dr. Dancer predicted. "But we don't have that yet."

In fact, Dr. Dancer said that, within the next few years, specialists--and those who create the technology to help those with sense impairment--will have to think more about people with dual sensory loss. "As the population grows older," he said, "the number of people in this group will grow larger."

Dr. Dancer first became interested in working with older populations when he was a doctoral student at Teachers College, studying with the late Professor Ira Ventry. "He was a pioneer in the field," Dr. Dancer remembered, "and he shared with us his foresight."

In fact, Professor Ventry told Dr. Dancer and others 20 years ago that, as the baby-boom population grew older, they would have to be prepared to treat them for the sensory problems that come with aging. Because of Dr. Dancer's interest in dual sensory loss, he brought his expertise in audiology to the Lighthouse Center for Vision and Aging in New York City a year ago. As he completed a six-week summer fellowship, he presented a workshop for the Lighthouse staff titled "Hearing and Vision Loss in Combination: More Than Double Trouble."

Dr. Dancer came to Teachers College to study after earning a master's degree at Southern Illinois University. He received his doctorate in 1976.

A native of Star City, Arkansas, who earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Central Arkansas, Dr. Dancer returned to his home state when a faculty position became open at UALR.

In the 17 years he has been teaching in Little Rock, he has trained more than 60 audiologists, most of whom are still practicing inside the state.

Dr. Dancer remembers that, two decades ago, persons in need of audiological services usually had to travel to Little Rock. Today, however, his former students are serving communities around the state in cities such as Harrison and Pine Bluff.

"I'm proud of that," Dr. Dancer said, "just as I am proud of the education I received at Teachers College. I have tried to use that education to do my best to serve the people here in Arkansas." 10/2/95

Published Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2001

Dual Sensory Loss

For these individuals, the world is a darkening place that is also growing ever more silent.

They have both impaired sight and hearing. It is called dual sensory loss and specialists are finding that more people--especially older people--suffer from it than anyone had expected.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, Dr. Jess Dancer, who earned his Ed.D. in audiology at Teachers College, Columbia University, is identifying people who suffer from dual sensory loss, as he works to take audiology out of the clinic and into the home.

Visiting Pulaski County residents who have been identified as visually impaired by the Arkansas State Services for the Blind, Dr. Dancer--a professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR)--is also testing them for hearing loss. Assisted by two graduate students, he will test between 80 and 100 people during the next few months.

But he has already found that "about half of the people with vision loss that we have tested have also had some hearing impairment as well."

Home-site testing is relatively new for audiologists, Dr. Dancer said. "We have usually asked people to come into the clinic for testing because audiology as a field grew up around the big, sound proof booth."

Today, even the booth can be portable, and changes in technology have made it possible for audiologists to complete at least the basic tests of hearing just about anywhere. Taking the testing into the home is a way of reaching out to some people who feel trapped.

"In the past, we didn't even know that some of these people existed," Dr. Dancer said. "When elderly people have trouble seeing and hearing, there is a good chance that they don't interact with the public in places like community centers or even churches. They stay home."

When Dr. Dancer and his students visit such people, they tell them what kind of technological help is now available to them, "and we try to re-involve them in the community."

Dual sensory loss means that some traditional treatments for one sense impairment will not work, Dr. Dancer said. "If someone is only hearing-impaired, you might help that person learn to read lips, but, if that person is also visually impaired, he won't be able to see the lips." Someone who is visually impaired also may have trouble manipulating the controls on hearing aids. "There will come a time when we have braille on hearing aids," Dr. Dancer predicted. "But we don't have that yet."

In fact, Dr. Dancer said that, within the next few years, specialists--and those who create the technology to help those with sense impairment--will have to think more about people with dual sensory loss. "As the population grows older," he said, "the number of people in this group will grow larger."

Dr. Dancer first became interested in working with older populations when he was a doctoral student at Teachers College, studying with the late Professor Ira Ventry. "He was a pioneer in the field," Dr. Dancer remembered, "and he shared with us his foresight."

In fact, Professor Ventry told Dr. Dancer and others 20 years ago that, as the baby-boom population grew older, they would have to be prepared to treat them for the sensory problems that come with aging. Because of Dr. Dancer's interest in dual sensory loss, he brought his expertise in audiology to the Lighthouse Center for Vision and Aging in New York City a year ago. As he completed a six-week summer fellowship, he presented a workshop for the Lighthouse staff titled "Hearing and Vision Loss in Combination: More Than Double Trouble."

Dr. Dancer came to Teachers College to study after earning a master's degree at Southern Illinois University. He received his doctorate in 1976.

A native of Star City, Arkansas, who earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Central Arkansas, Dr. Dancer returned to his home state when a faculty position became open at UALR.

In the 17 years he has been teaching in Little Rock, he has trained more than 60 audiologists, most of whom are still practicing inside the state.

Dr. Dancer remembers that, two decades ago, persons in need of audiological services usually had to travel to Little Rock. Today, however, his former students are serving communities around the state in cities such as Harrison and Pine Bluff.

"I'm proud of that," Dr. Dancer said, "just as I am proud of the education I received at Teachers College. I have tried to use that education to do my best to serve the people here in Arkansas." 10/2/95

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