Documented Hearing and Vision Loss
The overall distribution of degree of vision loss has remained relatively consistent over time. A total of 7,853 or just under 80% of the children and youth were identified as having low vision, being legally blind, or having a documented functional vision loss in 2017. A total of 497, about 5% of the population, is totally blind. These distributions have remained fairly consistent over the past five years, fluctuating 1 to 3% during this time period. There has been a slight increase in the percentage of children and youth with low vision and a documented functional vision loss. The percentage of children who are legally blind has declined.
The number of children and youth who have an identified cortical vision impairment has grown slightly over the past five years from 2,816 in 2013 to 2,906 in 2017 and represents about 30% of the population.
The documented degree of hearing loss is more evenly distributed from mild to profound. A total of 1,999 children and youth have a profound hearing loss and make up the largest group at nearly 20%. The number of children with a documented functional hearing loss (1,254) is about equal to the number of children and youth with a mild hearing loss (1,332). These distributions have remained very consistent over the past five years, fluctuating only 1 to 2%. The percentage of children/youth identified as needing further hearing testing has fluctuated from 8.3% to 7.2% over the past five years.
Relatively few children and youth have been identified as having a central auditory processing disorder (549) or auditory neuropathy (531). In both cases, these numbers represent less than 6% of the population.
The number of children identified as having received cochlear implants has increased from 914 in 2013 (9.7%) to 1,098 in 2017 (11.0%). This increase is true for all ages, from infants to young adults.
In 2017, less than half of the children and youth made use of corrective lenses (42.3%), assistive listening devices (48.1%), or additional assistive technology (48.8%). While there has been a significant increase over the past five years in the percentage of children and youth with corrective lenses from 37.8% to 42.3% and assistive listening devices from 43.6% to 48.4%, there has been a small decrease in the use of other assistive technologies from 45.0% to 44.0%.
The broad range and combinations of vision and hearing loss of the children and youth on the National Deaf-Blind Child Count provide evidence of the heterogeneous nature of this population and their needs. Only about 1% of the population has a profound hearing loss and is totally blind. The other 99% have some residual hearing or vision.
While the number of children and youth needing further vision and or hearing testing has decreased over time, there is still a need for increased access to pediatric audiologists and optometrists. The number of children and youth who have been identified as having a cortical vision impairment (30%) indicate continued work in this area is crucial.
The number of children/youth with cochlear implants has continued to grow over the past five years. This increase may require significant program development within the Deaf-Blind Network to provide appropriate supports for this growing population.
Assistive technology plays an important role in the lives of children and youth who are deaf-blind especially those with more intensive support needs. Overall, the percentage of children and youth that use of assistive technologies has remained fairly constant over the past five years at about 45%. However, only about 25% of children and youth with no additional disabilities are reported to use additional assistive technologies while over 50% of children with four or more additional disabilities use additional assistive technologies.