Deafblindness is a complex hearing and vision disorder, which can be caused by trauma, diseases, inherited syndromes, or age factors. A common disease mostly occurring in elderly people, deafblindness is a combination of sight and hearing loss that affects a person's ability to communicate and hear.
Also known as dual sensory loss or multi-sensory impairment, this kind of hearing or vision loss (or both) occurs later in life; however, some infants are also born deafblind. As we know that communication between human beings relies on two major factors that are on vision and hearing. These two senses are interlinked and enhance each other's functionality. However, a deafblind person does not turn deaf and blind in an instant. Sometimes hearing loss and vision loss are very mild, and mostly one sense compensates for the other. At the onset, the patient may not even realize their vision or hearing is getting affected. Reasons for this disorder include premature birth, prenatal infection, age-related and genetic causes. Hereditary causes are primarily estimated to be responsible for this ailment that can affect any age group. When both senses get reduced, it causes significant difficulties in everyday life.
Types of Deafblindness
There are two major categories of deafblind people:
There are certain defects in the human being that are acquired by birth. Also known as congenital abnormalities, congenital conditions, or congenital malformations, they can be inherited or caused by environmental factors. People with congenital deafblindness are born deafblind, or their hearing and vision impairment occurs before spoken, or other forms of language and communication get developed in them. Many factors are responsible for congenital deafblindness, and it can occur for several reasons, such as infection contracted by the mother during her pregnancy, disease, or injury that can affect the child's development.
Children with this problem also get other ailments such as cerebral palsy or mental retardation. Given the rareness of these genetic conditions and difficulties in assessment, congenital deafblindness can sometimes be misdiagnosed. As many as twenty different genetic syndromes are known to be associated with this disorder.
People who are born deaf start to experience a deteriorating sight after some time. A common example is Usher Syndrome, which causes deafness at birth followed by vision impairment. Sometimes it can happen through accident, injury, or disease. Besides, certain people are born blind or lose their hearing with age, and some lose both vision and hearing as they grow old.
Effects of Deafblindness
Deafblindness is not easy to live with. It affects a person's ability to communicate, get information, and socialize. This leads to feelings of isolation and low self-esteem in patients since the confidence to move on their own and carry out daily tasks is not available to them anymore. Whether a person was born deafblind or he or she acquired vision and hearing loss through deterioration of these senses later in life plays an important role in their emotional well-being.
There have been deep insights into genetics, more advanced diagnostic tools for the assessment of vision and hearing, and appropriate screening in the last few years. All these contribute to an early and correct diagnosis. Testing of heart, lungs, brain, blood, immune and digestive systems, muscles, and movement is carried out before vision and hearing loss are considered positive. An early diagnosis improves the possibility of giving an accurate prognosis, thus allowing better rehabilitation and better management.
Living With Deafblindness
Since it is not possible to cure the illness completely, the primary aim of the treatment is to reduce the isolation of the patients and help them live a stress-free life. While visual implants have not yet been developed, some research in the implantation of cameras and electrodes in the retina has shown positive results. There are methods of improving beneficial speech understanding. To improve hearing, cochlear implantation is a useful technology. A cochlear implant is a small, advanced electronic device that helps in providing a sense of sound to a deaf person and for people who have severe hearing loss from the inner ear. While a hearing aid is also a popular option, it is used to amplify sounds that are detected by damaged ears; Cochlear implants bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Using a hearing aid and cochlear implant together can be of tremendous help to an individual. Above all, the internet has opened communication with other deafblind people and the rest of the community. Computers usage is also encouraged to reduce the isolation of patients and enhance their communication through braille and speech.
In addition, progressive hearing and vision loss is being tried and tested for prevention with drugs or growth hormones besides the possibility of stem-cell treatment. Research in the regeneration of nerve cells within the retina is rigorously being done across the globe. In the near future, identification of the precise mutation of genetic disorders might lead to medical and genetic treatment.