Do most blind people keep their eyes open or closed?
August 13, 2017 8:57 PM   Subscribe

I saw a video of Andrea Bocelli, and it looked like his eyes were closed the whole time. But a blind lady in my building keeps hers open (she is 100% blind, I know because I have had conversations with her about it). So what's the deciding factor ... I assume it's more of a natural/physical thing than a learned behavior? Does it have to do with blind-since-birth vs. once-sighted-now-blind? What are the factors behind this that I don't know about? No hidden agenda here, I am truly just curious.
posted by mccxxiii to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Anecdata: A student I worked with a few years ago kept his eyes closed because his blindness from birth had caused his eyeballs and sockets to atrophy. My mom had a student who went blind after his stepfather shot him in the head at point blank range, and I think he also kept his eyes closed because the brain damage he'd suffered made some of the muscles in his face forget how to function.

This would be a good question to ask the folks at the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind, though!
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:05 PM on August 13, 2017

It really probably depends a lot. I'm totally blind, due to being born at 25 weeks, but open my eyes normally as far as I'm aware. There are so many conditions and causes of blindness that it's impossible to generalize, I'm afraid.
posted by Alensin at 10:13 PM on August 13, 2017 [14 favorites]

Depends on the person, and cause of blindness, from the research I've read (my day job is as Research Librarian here...)

Some conditions make people extra sensitive to light (hence sunglasses all the time or keeping eyes closed) or what people can see is distracting to them when they're concentrating on something else. Some affect how the eye moves in the head. Some affect the ability to blink or move eyelids.

I am not digging up an absolute reference right now, but I'm pretty sure eyes open is more common. That's because there are a number of people who are legally blind, but still have some vision, or who have light perception, and who use that in various ways. It's fairly rare for someone to be 100% totally unable to see anything at all. That's certainly my experience at work.

There's a nice article from the American Academy of Opthamology that talks about this a bit. And an AMA from Reddit, summarised here might also be of interest.
posted by modernhypatia at 5:04 AM on August 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

I subscribe to a YouTube channel by a blind man who talks a lot about the experience of blindness. Here is one of his videos where he talks about blind people keeping their eyes open (or not)
posted by jessamyn at 5:47 AM on August 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Does it have to do with blind-since-birth vs. once-sighted-now-blind?

Here's an interview by the same person from Jessamyn's link, Tommy Edison, who's been blind since birth, with Christine Ha, who lost her sight in her 20s. They don't talk about whether they open their eyes, but you can see that Tommy keeps his eyes closed (for reasons he explains in Jessamyn's link), while Christine keeps her eyes open in a way that looks just like a sighted person.
posted by John Cohen at 7:13 AM on August 14, 2017

In a follow-up to that interview, Christine Ha, who went blind in her 20s, explains why she still turns on lights when she's alone at home: she still has some vision, so looking around can help her somewhat. In the video from my previous comment, she describes what she is able to see. So that could explain why someone like her keeps her eyes open, but a blind person who has no vision would have no reason to open their eyes.
posted by John Cohen at 7:31 AM on August 14, 2017

My husband has been blind in one eye since birth. That eye is usually open since he wears a prosthetic, but when he doesn't have the prosthetic in, his eyelid remains mostly- to fully-closed because the eye itself is atrophied and smaller than the other.
posted by telophase at 11:14 AM on August 16, 2017

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