Symptoms of deafblindness 

Levels of hearing and sight loss vary between individuals who are deafblind.

Hearing loss

In deafblindness, hearing loss can occur from birth or may develop later after an infection or injury. In other cases, a person's hearing may gradually deteriorate over time.

Someone with impaired hearing may find that speech and other noises sound muffled and indistinct and they may not be able to follow and understand conversations, particularly when there's background noise.

A person with a hearing problem may also need to turn up the volume on the television or radio and ask others to speak loudly, slowly and more clearly.

Read more about the symptoms of hearing impairment.

Sight loss

A person who is deafblind may have developed a condition that gradually causes their vision to deteriorate. For example, they may have an eye condition such as:

  • cataracts – cloudy patches that form on the eye's lens
  • glaucoma – pressure changes inside the eye that damage the optic nerve (the nerve that transmits images from the eye to the brain)
  • retinopathy – a number of eye disorders that damage the blood vessels of the retina (light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye) and can lead to vision loss

Common symptoms of conditions that cause progressive sight loss include:

  • eye pain 
  • blurred vision
  • halos around light sources
  • reduced night vision
  • difficulty seeing in bright sunlight or well-lit rooms

Read more about the symptoms of visual impairment.

When to seek medical help

In cases of congenital deafblindness, hearing and sight loss are usually detected soon after birth during early routine checks, such as the NHS Newborn Hearing Screening Programme.

Visit your GP as soon as possible if you notice any deterioration in your hearing or eyesight. They may refer you to a specialist for hearing tests or vision tests.

If eye conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts are diagnosed early, they can be successfully treated before they cause significant damage to your sight.

You should also visit your GP if you have repeated ear infections because they could increase your risk of developing hearing loss.


Page last reviewed: 08/01/2014

Next review due: 08/01/2016