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. In many individuals, the hearing loss is not apparent until early adulthood.

Visual Impairments

Thirteen percent of the population with Down syndrome have cataracts, 15% have keratoconus (cone-shaped cornea), and 25-43% have refractive errors such as nearsightedness or farsightedness.

Nurses working with adults 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 adult’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 adults with Down syndrome can be corrected.