Signs and symptoms of deafblindness 

A person who's deafblind won't usually be totally deaf and totally blind, but both senses will be reduced enough to cause difficulties with everyday activities.

The hearing and/or vision problems may be present from birth, but in many cases one or both problems develop gradually as a person gets older and they may not notice it themselves at first.

If someone you know has a combination of the signs mentioned below, it's possible they have some degree of deafblindness and should seek medical advice.

Signs of a hearing problem

Hearing loss can occur from birth or may develop gradually or suddenly later on.

Signs that someone may have a problem with their hearing include:

  • not hearing you if you speak to them from behind
  • needing to turn up the volume on the television or radio
  • difficulty following a conversation – particularly if several people are speaking or the person they're speaking to is unfamiliar
  • not hearing noises around them, such as a knock at the door or the doorbell ringing
  • asking others to speak loudly, slowly and more clearly
  • leaning in very close to hear what's being said

If someone already has a hearing problem – for example, they wear a hearing aid or use sign language – keep an eye out for signs of vision problems that could develop (see below).

Signs of a vision problem

Vision loss can also be present from birth or develop later on.

Signs that someone may have a problem with their vision include:

  • problems seeing in low light or bright light
  • difficulty recognising people they know
  • finding it hard to read facial expressions
  • relying on touch to find and identify items more than usual
  • needing to hold books or newspapers close to their face, or sitting near the television
  • difficulty moving around unfamiliar places – they may bump into or trip over things regularly
  • not looking directly at you or making proper eye contact

If a person already has a problem with their vision – for example, they wear glasses, use a cane to get around, or have a condition such as glaucoma or cataracts – keep an eye out for signs of hearing problems that could develop (see above).

Getting medical advice

Visit your GP if you notice any deterioration in your hearing or eyesight.

If you're worried about a friend or family member's vision and hearing, 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 can be more effective if started early.

Early diagnosis will also ensure the person is able to access local support services sooner, and enable them to plan for the future (such as learning new communication methods).

Read more about diagnosing deafblindness and managing deafblindness.

Page last reviewed: 21/09/2015

Next review due: 21/09/2017