The impact of low vision on social function: The potential importance of lost visual social cues

Susanne Klauke, Chloe Sondocie, Ione Fine
Journal of Optometry 2022 May 11
Visual cues usually play a vital role in social interaction. As well as being the primary cue for identifying other people, visual cues also provide crucial non-verbal social information via both facial expressions and body language. One consequence of vision loss is the need to rely on non-visual cues during social interaction. Although verbal cues can carry a significant amount of information, this information is often not available to an untrained listener. Here, we review the current literature examining potential ways that the loss of social information due to vision loss might impact social functioning. A large number of studies suggest that low vision and blindness is a risk factor for anxiety and depression. This relationship has been attributed to multiple factors, including anxiety about disease progression, and impairments to quality of life that include difficulties reading, and a lack of access to work and social activities. However, our review suggests a potential additional contributing factor to reduced quality of life that has been hitherto overlooked: blindness may make it more difficult to effectively engage in social interactions, due to a loss of visual information. The current literature suggests it might be worth considering training in voice discrimination and/or recognition when carrying out rehabilitative training in late blind individuals.

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