Understanding deafblindness

A lady wearing dark glasses and a man with a hearing aid

Although around three-quarters of people with combined sight and hearing loss are elderly, deafblindness can affect people of any age. Lee Bolland, director of operations at Deafblind UK explains:

A lady with sight impairments who was wearing two hearing aids once came up to my stand at a low vision event. She saw I was representing Deafblind UK and said to me: “Wouldn’t it be awful to be deafblind – those poor people!” What she didn’t realise was that she herself was one of nearly 400,000 deafblind people in the UK.

Despite common misconceptions, deafblindness actually means a combined sight and hearing impairment to the point where someone’s communication, mobility or ability to access information are affected.

Deafblindness comes on a huge spectrum, ranging from someone struggling to see and hear the TV, right through to them not being able to see or hear anything at all. Many people with deafblindness are able to hear and/or see something.

It is especially important for people with low vision to recognise the signs of hearing impairments and to understand that support is available should they need it.

Early signs of hearing loss include:

• difficulty following conversations involving more than two people

• thinking that other people sound muffled or are mumbling

• trouble hearing children and women

• ringing in the ears

• reading lips more intently and watching people’s faces when they speak

• feeling embarrassed to meet new people.

Dual sensory loss isn’t just sight loss plus a hearing loss. Imagine hearing impairment as the colour blue and visual impairment as the colour yellow. When the two sensory impairments, or blue and yellow, come together, they become something new: dual sensory impairment or green, a totally new colour with different properties.

Realising that you may have a dual sensory impairment can leave you with questions and concerns. At Deafblind UK, we support people with any level of combined sight and hearing loss to carry on as normal. Many of our services are free of charge. They include practical advice and information, emotional support for you and your family, help with digital technology, use of our accessible holiday caravans and support to find social groups and companionship.

If you have any questions about combined sight and hearing loss, or want to find out what we can do for you, call our team of experts on 0800 132 320, text 07950 008 870 or email info@deafblind.org.uk