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Deafblindness

Deafblindness is a combination of sight and hearing loss that affects a person's ability to communicate, access information and get around.

It's also sometimes called "dual sensory loss" or "multi-sensory impairment".

A deafblind person won't usually be totally deaf and totally blind, but both senses will be reduced enough to cause significant difficulties in everyday life.

These problems can occur even if hearing loss and vision loss are mild, as the senses work together and one would usually help compensate for loss of the other.

Signs of deafblindness

Deafblindness most commonly affects older adults, although it can affect people of all ages, including babies and young children.

In older people, it may develop gradually and the person themselves may not realise their vision and/or hearing is getting worse at first.

Signs of a problem can include:

If someone already has either a hearing or vision problem, it's important to look out for signs that suggest the other sense may be getting worse too.

Read more about the symptoms of deafblindness.

Seeing your GP

Visit your GP if you think your hearing or eyesight may be getting worse.

If you're worried about a friend or family member, encourage them to speak to their GP.

It's best to seek advice as soon as possible, as treatment for some underlying causes of deafblindness (see below) can be more effective if started early. Early diagnosis will also ensure the person is able to access local support services sooner.

Read more about diagnosing and assessing deafblindness.

What causes deafblindness?

There are many potential causes of deafblindness. Some babies are born deafblind, but in many cases the hearing and/or vision loss occurs later in life.

Causes of deafblindness include:

Read more about the causes of deafblindness.

Living with deafblindness

A range of care and support services is available to help deafblind people.

Each deafblind person will have a different level of hearing and sight loss, which means they'll have their own individual care needs.

The general aims of care for a deafblind person are to:

Your local authority should arrange an assessment to determine exactly what care and support is needed.

Read more about managing deafblindness.

Help and support

Sense is a UK-based charity that provides advice and support for deafblind people. The Sense helpline number is 0300 330 9256 (same number for textphone). Alternatively, you can email Sense: info@sense.org.uk.

Deafblind UK is another national charity that supports deafblind people and those with progressive sight and hearing loss.

You can contact Deafblind UK's helpline for information and advice on 0800 132320 (both voice and text calls). You can also email Deafblind UK: info@deafblind.org.uk.