Purpose: To estimate the nationwide prevalence of self-reported serious vision impairment (SVI), serious hearing impairment (SHI), and serious dual sensory impairment (DSI; i.e., concomitant SVI and SHI) and to characterize their associations with self-reported cognitive, independent living, self-care, and ambulatory difficulties. Design: The American Community Survey (ACS) is a nationwide cross-sectional survey administered by the United States Census Bureau. Participants: The 2011–2015 ACS sample contains data on 7 210 535 individuals 45 years of age or older. Methods: Descriptive statistics for each of the 4 mutually exclusive sensory impairment categories no sensory impairment (NSI), SVI, SHI, and serious DSI were calculated using the weighted sample. Adjusted odds ratios using several logistic regressions were calculated using the unweighted sample to measure the magnitude of associations between sensory impairment status and the outcome difficulties. Main Outcome Measures: Self-reported cognitive, independent living, self-care, and ambulatory difficulty. Results: Among individuals 45 years of age or older, the estimated nationwide prevalence of self-reported SVI alone is 2.8%, that of SHI alone is 6.0%, and that of serious DSI is 1.6%. The prevalence of each sensory impairment increases with age. A greater proportion of American Indians or Alaskan Natives experience SVI (4.8%), SHI (8.5%), and serious DSI (3.7%) than any other race or ethnic group (P < 0.001). Individuals reporting serious DSI are more likely to report cognitive impairment, independent living difficulty, self-care difficulty, and difficulty ambulating than individuals with NSI across all age groups (all P < 0.001). Furthermore, serious DSI is associated with greater cognitive and functional difficulties than SVI or SHI alone, and SVI alone has a greater association with cognitive and functional difficulties than SHI alone. Conclusions: The nationwide prevalence of self-reported serious sensory impairment increases with age and is distributed unequally among different racial and ethnic groups. Any sensory impairment is associated with greater cognitive and functional difficulties than NSI. Additionally, serious DSI is associated with greater difficulties than SVI or SHI alone, and SVI alone is more serious than SHI alone in each of the 4 cognitive and functional difficulties.
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