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2016 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 7,578 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 2016. A total of 490, about 5% of the population, is totally blind. These distributions have remained fairly consistent over the past seven years, fluctuating between 1-3%. 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 seven years from 2,618 in 2010 to 2,808 in 2016 and represents about 30% of the population.

The documented degree of hearing loss is more evenly distributed from mild to profound. A total of 1,878 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 (1,202) is about equal to the number of children and youth with a mild hearing loss (1,309). These distributions have remained very consistent over the past seven years, fluctuating only 1-2%. The percentage of children/youth identified as needing further hearing testing has fluctuated from 8.2% to 6.9% over the past seven years.

Relatively few children and youth have been identified as having a central auditory processing disorder (570) or auditory neuropathy (510). 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 662 in 2010 (6.7%) to 1,027 in 2016 (10.7%). This increase is true for all ages, from infants to young adults.

In 2016, less than half of the children and youth made use of corrective lenses (41.6%) or assistive listening devices (48.1%) or additional assistive technology (44.4%). While there has been a significant increase over the past seven years in the percentage of children and youth with corrective lenses from 32.5% to 41.6% and assistive listening devices from 38.4% to 48.1%, there has been a smaller increase in the use of other assistive technologies from 41.9% to 44.4%. 

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 grown dramatically 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 has an increasingly important place in the lives of children and youth who are deaf-blind. The past several years however, has seen a leveling off in the use of assistive technology. The percentage of children and youth that use of assistive technologies has remained fairly constant over the past five years at about 45%.