There are many possible causes of deafblindness. The condition can either be present at birth or develop later in life.
Deafblindness from birth is known as congenital deafblindness.
It can be caused by:
- problems associated with premature birth (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
- an infection in a baby in the womb, such as rubella (German measles), 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
- foetal alcohol syndrome – health problems caused by drinking alcohol in pregnancy
In most cases, deafblindness develops later in life. This is known as acquired deafblindness.
A person with acquired deafblindness may be born without a hearing or sight problem and then later loses part or all of both senses. Alternatively, someone may be born with either a hearing or vision problem, and then later loses part or all of the other sense later on.
Problems that can contribute to acquired deafblindness include:
- age-related hearing loss
- Usher syndrome – a genetic condition that affects hearing, vision and balance
- eye problems associated with increasing age, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts and glaucoma
- diabetic retinopathy – a complication of diabetes where the cells lining the back of the eye are damaged by high blood sugar levels
- damage to the brain, such as from meningitis, encephalitis, a stroke or severe head injury