The frequency of reversible and irreversible visual impairment was determined in children with severe and profound sensorineural deafness, as subnormal vision can adversely affect their educational and social development. Eighty three of 87 such children attending an audiology service were examined to assess the incidence and severity of visual impairment. Each child underwent a detailed ophthalmic assessment. The criteria for visual impairment were visual acuity < 6/9 Snellen or equivalent and/or abnormal binocular vision. Forty five had a normal ophthalmic examination (54.2%). Twenty nine had visual impairment (34.9%) and nine had ophthalmological abnormalities that did not interfere with vision (10.9%). A higher proportion of children with risk factors for visual pathology demonstrated visual impairment than those in whom there were no risk factors. None the less, 44% of visual impairment was among patients without risk factors. The results underline the need to examine all children with severe and profound sensorineural deafness soon after diagnosis and indicate that children with multiple handicaps have a greater likelihood of visual impairment (11 of 14 cases).
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