Deafblindness is the loss of sight and hearing to the point where your communication, mobility and ability to access information are impacted. This includes ‘progressive’ sight and hearing loss; where your sight and hearing may deteriorate over a period of time. Deafblindness is often also referred to as ‘dual sensory loss’ or ‘dual sensory impairment’.
Here’s an easy way to think of deafblindness. If you mix the colours yellow and blue together, you get green. Green is completely different to both yellow and blue, it is a colour in its own right.
The same is true of deafblindness. If you have sight loss and hearing loss, then you are deafblind, which is a completely unique condition.
Deafblindness comes on a huge spectrum ranging from struggling to see and hear the TV right through to not being able to see or hear anything at all. However, many people with deafblindness are able to hear and/or see something. Deafblindness affects everyone in different ways.
It is estimated that there are nearly 400,000 deafblind people in the UK. This is expected to increase to over 600,000 by 2030 due to our ageing population. Deafblindness affects people of all ages, including children and young people, but it is more common in older people as our sight and hearing naturally worsen as we get older.
What causes deafblindness?
Deafblindness can be caused by certain health conditions, illnesses or from ageing. Some causes of deafblindness are:
- Age-related hearing loss
- Eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts and glaucoma
- Usher syndrome – a genetic condition that affects hearing, vision and balance
- Damage to the brain, such as from meningitis, encephalitis, a stroke or severe head injury
- Problems associated with premature birth
- An infection picked up during pregnancy, such as rubella, toxoplasmosis or cytomegalovirus (CMV)
- Genetic conditions, such as CHARGE syndrome or Down’s syndrome
- Cerebral palsy– a problem with the brain and nervous system that mainly affects movement and co-ordination
You may be aware that they can’t see and hear as well as you used to, but you don’t consider yourself to be deafblind. It is important for us all to recognise the signs of sight and hearing impairments in ourselves and in our friends and family – and to understand that support is available if we need it. Click here to read about early signs of deafblindness.