Headline data

Eye Health

eyeThere are 1,170 people registered blind or partially sighted in Gateshead. 73% are 65 years of age or older. 610 of these people have an additional disability (84% of these relate to a physical disability of being hard of hearing).[1] Because registration is voluntary, this underestimates the true number of people with severe visual impairment. It also excludes a large number of people with sight loss below registrable levels (estimated to be around 2,500 people) and those with cataract according to the Gateshead Eye Health and Sight Loss Needs Assessment 2013.[2]

To address the underestimate of people with a visual impairment, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) publishes estimates of the number of people living with sight loss. These estimates apply national research findings to local population projections. There are an estimated 6,690 people living with sight loss in Gateshead. Of this total, 5,800 are living with partial sight and 890 are blind. This means that 3.3% of the total population of Gateshead could be living with sight loss, compared to 3.1% of the total population of England. By 2030, it is projected there will be 7,980 people in Gateshead living with sight loss, an increase of 19%.[3] [See also: % reporting blindness or partial sight]

oldermaleThe older you are the more likely it is that you are living with sight loss. Nationally, one in four people aged 75 and over are living with sight loss; compared to one in two aged 90 and over. Older people living with sight loss are also much more likely to have additional health conditions or disabilities. Applying these national research findings to the local population, in Gateshead there are estimated to be 4,000 people aged over 75 with some significant level of sight loss.[3]

In January 2019 Gateshead's school census identified 67 children and young people (aged 5-15) with a visual impairment.[4]

To address any underestimate of the number of children and young people with a visual impairment, the RNIB publishes estimates of those who are blind or partially sighted. These estimates apply national research findings to local population projections. There are estimated to be 80 blind and partially sighted children aged 0-16 in Gateshead, and a further 40 aged 17-25.[5]

Preventable Sight Loss CasesThe three main causes of sight loss are glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy.[6] The number of people with these and other eye conditions is predicted to increase. Around 50% of cases of sight loss are preventable through primary and secondary prevention, early detection and treatment. It is thought that more than half of glaucoma cases are undetected.

There are estimated to be a large number of people who are living with a sight threatening eye condition in Gateshead. Applying national research to the local population in Gateshead, there are estimated to be 8,940 living with early stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD), 4,090 living with late stage AMD, 2,220 living with cataract, 4,160 living with ocular hypertension, 2,170 living with glaucoma, 4,080 living with diabetic retinopathy and of these 380 living with severe diabetic retinopathy (a later stage of the disease that is likely to result in significant and potentially certifiable sight loss).[7]

There are numerous impacts of sight loss on health and wellbeing, including: mental ill health and reduced mental wellbeing; social isolation; increased risk of falls; and low income.[6] Healthcare costs alone for eye health in Gateshead are estimated at £8.2 million per year;[2] there are considerable additional social care costs.

Sight loss also has strong links with other health priorities including smoking, obesity, diabetes, an ageing population, falls and mental health. The sense people most fear losing is sight, suggesting that there is considerable potential for using eye health messages to reinforce broader health promotion campaigns in Gateshead according to 'Driving Local Change for Effective and Efficient Eye Care Services'.[6]

Deaf or Hard of Hearing

earIn a 2011/12 GP patient survey, just 0.2% of those who took part in Gateshead said they were Deaf and needed to use Sign language.[8] Applying this rate to the Gateshead population would suggest there are around 43 Deaf people who use Sign language. However, as at 31st July 2019, the register of people who are Deaf or hard of hearing shows the number of people recorded as being Deaf (though not necessarily using Sign language) in Gateshead was 171. A further 1,411 were recorded as being hard of hearing.[9] [See also: % reporting deafness or hearing loss by GP practice]

Register of people who are Deaf or hard of hearing:[9]

 Aged 18 to 64Aged 65+All People
Deaf10368171
Hard of hearing1761,2351,411
Total2791,3031,582

The majority, 88%, of those people registered as hard of hearing were aged 65 or over, just 12% were of working age.[9] Nationally, most hard of hearing people develop a hearing loss with increasing age and it is much more likely to happen around the age of 50 or above. Another factor in hearing loss is exposure to loud noises. From the age of 40 onwards, more men become hard of hearing than women, but this is likely because more men have been exposed to high levels of industrial noise.

In comparison with those who are hard of hearing, those who are Deaf are much more likely to be of working age, with 40% aged 65 or over, but 60% of working age.[9] Nationally, of people aged 80 or over, there are more women who are Deaf or hard of hearing, but this reflects the fact that women tend to live longer than men, not because women are more likely to become Deaf.[10]

In January 2019 Gateshead's school census identified 82 children and young people (aged 5-15) with a hearing impairment.[4]

A high proportion of severely or profoundly deaf people have other disabilities as well. Nationally, among those under 60, 45% have additional disabilities, mostly of a physical nature. Among severely or profoundly deaf people over 60 years, 77% have some additional disability. For 45%, this means significant dexterity or sight difficulties, or both.[11]

Dual Sensory Loss (Visual and Hearing Impaired)

The upper estimate for people living with some degree of hearing impairment and visual impairment suggests that 1,280 people are living with some degree of dual sensory loss in Gateshead. Of these people, it is estimated that 490 are living with severe dual sensory loss.[12]


[1] HCSIC, Registered Blind and Partially Sighted People - England, Year ending 31 March 2014

[2] Gateshead Eye Health and Sight Loss Needs Assessment, Mar 2013 (Vision2020uk website)

[3] RNIB Estimate of Sight Loss, ONS MYE 2018, Sub National Population Projections, RNIB Sight Loss Data Tool Version 4.0, published December 2018 (RNIB Sight Loss Data Tool website)

[4] School Census, Gateshead Council, Jan 2019

[5] RNIB Estimate of Blind and Partially Sighted Children and Young People, Keil (2013), Key statistics on number of blind and partially sighted children and young people in England, Morris and Smith (2008), Educational provision for blind and partially sighted children and young people in Britain: 2007, RNIB Sight Loss Data Tool Version 4.0, published December 2018 (RNIB Sight Loss Data Tool website)

[6] Driving Local Change for Effective and Efficient Eye Care Services - Sharing Learning From the CEE Project, October 2014 (Vision2020uk website)

[7] RNIB Estimate of Sight Threatening Conditions, NEHEM (2013) National Eye Health Epidemiological Model. Data and models by Public Health Action Support Team published by Local Optical Committee Support Unit, R. Mathur et al (2015), Diabetic eye disease: A UK Incidence and Prevalence Study, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. RNIB. ONS Sub National Population Projections, RNIB Sight Loss Data Tool Version 4.0, published December 2018 (RNIB Sight Loss Data Tool website) 

[8] HSCIC, GP Patient Survey, 2011/12  (HSCIC website)

[9] Register of people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Gateshead Council, 31 Jul 2019

[10] HSCIC, People Registered as Deaf or Hard of Hearing, 31 Mar 2010 (HSCIC website)

[11] Statistics on Deafness, Deafsign, Oct 2000 (Deafsign.com website)

[12] RNIB Estimate of Dual Sensory Loss, Robertson J and Emerson E (2010), Estimating the Number of People with Co‐Occurring Vision and Hearing Impairments in the UK, ONS Subnational Population Projections, RNIB Sight Loss Data Tool Version 4.0, published December 2018 (RNIB Sight Loss Data Tool website)

Last modified on 1st November 2019

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