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2018 National Child Count of Children and Youth Who Are Deaf-Blind Report

Documented Hearing and Vision Loss

The overall distribution of degree of vision loss has remained relatively consistent over time. A total of 7,844 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 2018. A total of 436, nearly 5% of the population, is totally blind. These distributions have not varied much over the past five years, fluctuating only 1-3% 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 2,770 in 2014 to 2,797 in 2018 and represents just under 30% of the population.

The documented degree of hearing loss is more evenly distributed from mild to profound. A total of 2,017 children and youth have a profound hearing loss and make up the largest group at 20%. The number of children with a documented functional hearing loss (1,202) decreased this year, while the number of children and youth with a mild hearing loss (1,422) increased slightly. These distributions have remained very consistent over the past five years, fluctuating only 1-2%. The percentage of children/youth identified as needing further hearing testing has fluctuated between 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 (506) or auditory neuropathy (555). In both cases, these numbers represent less than 6% of the population.

The number of children identified as having received cochlear implants continues to increase, growing from 990 in 2014 (10.5%) to 1,155 in 2018 (11.7%). This increase is true for all ages, from infants to young adults.

While there has been a significant increase over the past five years in the percentage of children and youth with corrective lenses from 38.3% to 43.0% and assistive listening devices from 44.6% to 50.2%, there has been a gradual decrease in the use of other assistive technologies (44.5% to 44.2%).

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.

Assistive technology plays an important role in the lives of children and youth who are deaf-blind, especially those with intensive support needs. Overall, the percentage of children and youth that use assistive technologies has remained constant over the past five years at about 45%. However, only about 30% 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.