What is deafblindness?

Deafblindness is a combination of vision and hearing impairments. It is also described as multi-sensory impairment (MSI).

What is deafblindness?

Some people are completely deaf and blind, but many have a little sight and / or hearing they can use. Some may have other physical and learning disabilities to cope with.

In poorly resourced countries the causes of deafblindness are more numerous than in more affluent countries. These causes are often preventable - including when a woman catches rubella (German measles) when she is pregnant.

The combined effect of having little or no sight and hearing is extremely disabling:

  • Communication - it can be very hard for someone to express their needs and make themselves understood. Their family may also feel at a loss about how to approach them. 
  • Isolation - this can lead to the individual, and their family, becoming extremely isolated. Sadly, they may be ostracised from some communities. 
  • Getting information - we all depend on information and feedback - for example, about what is going on around us. This is very hard for people with deafblindness people to get without the right support. 
  • Mobility - moving around safely and getting to where you want to go is very challenging. 
  • Independence - living with some degree of independence is difficult, or even impossible, without receiving some education and training.

If a child with deafblindness in a poorer country does not receive help in these areas, there is a high chance that they will not survive.

First published: Monday 16 September 2013
Last updated: Tuesday 10 October 2017