Auditory Impairments

Up to 70% of people with Down syndrome may have conductive and/or sensorineural hearing loss, and many are not able to identify and/or communicate this loss. While some impairments may not be apparent until early adulthood, hearing loss is not uncommon in teens with Down syndrome.

Visual Impairments

Between 25% and 43% of the population with Down syndrome have refractive errors such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. Cataracts, while most commonly seen in adulthood, may also occur in some teens with Down syndrome.

Blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelid, can cause eye irritation and increased tearing that interferes with normal vision.

Nurses working with teens with Down syndrome may be the first clinicians to detect subtle changes in vision and hearing, and make referrals for evaluation and treatment. Impaired hearing and vision can contribute to behavioral problems, social isolation, decline in living skills, and delirium. Some impairments, such as sensorineural hearing loss, may not be correctable. Nurses familiar with the teen’s living situation can make valuable recommendations for telephones with amplifiers or enlarged buttons, headsets for use while watching television or playing CD’s, and other adaptive strategies.

Once they are identified, any of the hearing or visual impairments found in teens with Down syndrome can be corrected.