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’.
Deafblindness is a completely different condition to a sight loss plus a hearing loss. An easy way to think of this is to imagine hearing impairment as the colour blue and visual impairment as the colour yellow. When the two sensory impairments, or in this case the colours blue and yellow, come together they become something new –dual sensory impairment or in this analogy – green; a totally new colour with different properties.
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, click here to read more about living with deafblindness.
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.
People are described as congenitally deafblind if they were born with their vision and hearing impairment, or if they acquired it before they learned to talk or to learn sign language (often as a result of an illness or injury).
Acquired deafblindness is when you develop vision and hearing loss after you have developed language. This includes people who were born deaf and then loose their sight, and people who were born blind and later loose their hearing. Acquired deafblindness is very common in older adults because our sight and hearing naturally deteriorate as we get older.
Multi Sensory Impaired (MSI)
The term MSI is used to describe a group of people (mainly used in an educational setting with children) who have a number of different sensory difficulties. This can include any of the senses and includes the processing issues that some people experience. This means that, although there are no issues with the sensory organs, the brain struggles to decode and organise the messages sent from them.
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.