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Deafness and Intellectual Disability

Hearing Loss Plus Intellectual Disability


Updated February 05, 2010

Often, the same conditions that cause deafness may also cause intellectual disability. The rubella that caused my deafness is one of them. CMV (cytomegalovirus) is another. Infants who are shaken can become deaf and intellectually disabled.


We don't hear very much about deaf people with intellectual disability in the deaf community, but they do exist. On March 10, 1996 CNN reported on a deaf teen with intellectual disability whose condition was caused by the CMV virus. In addition, many people with Down Syndrome also have hearing loss. This was cited in the article Hearing and Vision Loss Associated with Down Syndrome.


I don't know of any schools in the United States specifically for deaf students with mental retardation. Often such students are educated in classes for multiply disabled deaf students. Sweden does have such a school, however. Other educational resources include a fact sheet on teaching deaf children with multiple disabilities, from Info to Go. While not specifically about intellectual disability, it is probably one of the included conditions.


There has been quite a bit of research into deafness and intellectual disability. Resources found online included:

  • Searching the ERIC database using the keywords deaf and mental retardation yielded several articles, although most were relatively old.
  • The American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, previously the American Journal of Mental Retardation published by the American Association on Intelluctual and Developmental Disabilities, has carried articles on deafness and hearing loss.
  • A Swedish book from 1987, "Speak with my hands: the communication of deaf-blind mentally retarded children."

Fun and Caretaking

Deaf adults with intellectual disability can attend Camp Sign-a-Watha in Maine. Finally, when deaf children with intellectual disability grow up, they may need supervised living situations.

Personal Pages

  • Matthew's page - Web site of a hearing impaired teen with Downs Syndrome.
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