What is Deafblindness?
“Deafblindness is a unique and isolating sensory disability resulting from the combination of both hearing and vision loss or impairment. This has a significant effect on communication, socialisation, mobility and daily living.” Deafblind Australia (2018)
Dual sensory loss and dual sensory impairment are other terms that are used for deafblindness.
How many people are deafblind?
- Studies have reported from 0.2% to 2% of the population may be deafblind
- In Australia nearly 100,000 are reported to be deafblind, two-thirds are over the age of 65 years
- One study reported 36% of individuals over the age of 85 years are deafblind
Types of Deafblindness
- Congenital deafblindness is a term used when people are born deafblind or when their combined hearing and vision impairment occurs before spoken, signed or other visual forms of language and communication have developed.
- Congenital deafblindness can occur for a number of reasons:
- because of hereditary & genetic conditions,
- infection contracted by the mother during her pregnancy,
- or disease, infection or injury that affects a child early in their development.
- People who are born Deaf or hard of hearing and later experience deteriorating sight. Usher Syndrome for example, causes deafness or hearing impairment at birth and vision impairment later in life.
- People who are born vision impaired or blind and go on to experience hearing loss at a later stage.
- People who are born with vision and hearing that deteriorates at a later stage in their life through accident, injury or disease. For significant numbers of people the ageing process is a cause of dual sensory loss or deafblindness.
Effects of Deafblindness
- A small number of people will have no sight or hearing
- Other people who are deafblind will have varying degrees of vision and/or hearing
- Experiences and understanding of the world around them will be different depending on whether a person was born deafblind or acquired vision and hearing loss through deterioration of these senses later in life.
Emotional Impact of Deafblindness
- The impact of deafblindness on a person’s life will vary
- The impact on a person who has a severe vision and hearing impairment can be complex
- Deafblindness affects a person’s ability to access information, to communicate and socialise. This can lead to feelings of isolation
- A person can experience low self-esteem, lacking confidence to move about independently and to carry out daily tasks