Deafened condition guide in D&D 5e

Learn how the deafened condition works, how you can take advantage of it and protect yourself from it

The deafened condition is one of the more minor conditions that can afflict a creature in D&D 5e. It’s usually a temporary condition that doesn’t generally impact your ability to fight, but will make certain things more difficult (like having a conversation, or listening for enemies).

While it’s a fairly straightforward condition, it’s important to understand how deafened works, especially as there may need to be a fair bit of DM judgement on how it impacts players. Fortunately, our guide is here to help you understand everything you need to know about the deafened condition in D&D 5e.

Deafened rules

The Player’s Handbook explains the rules for the deafened condition, explaining that it causes the following effects:

  • A deafened creature can’t hear and automatically fails any ability check that requires hearing.
Player’s Handbook, p290

How does the deafened condition work?

Viktra Mordenheim’s subject being deafened on account of its missing head

On the face of it, the deafened condition is very straightforward. When deafened, you fail any ability checks that require you to hear. You also can’t hear anything making verbal conversations very challenging. Of course, the real question is what ability checks are actually affected by the deafened condition?

A lot of this will come down to the DM’s decisions on what checks require hearing and how much they are affected by not being able to hear. In some cases, being deaf will simply make a check harder, rather than automatically cause a failure. Below are some examples of checks that might be affected by the deafened condition:

  • Perception – Not every perception check requires hearing, but many do. Hearing an enemy sneaking up behind you would be an automatic failure, but seeing if you spot a sneaking enemy that you might see or hear would be more likely to be a perception check with disadvantage. A perception check that relies purely on sight would not be affected at all.
  • Stealth – While being stealthy might not seem like it requires hearing, being able to know how loud your steps are, whether you’re standing on a creaking floorboard, how loud your whispers are or whether the background noise of a place will mask your footsteps all contribute to how well you can sneak, meaning a deafened character might have disadvantage when sneaking.
  • Verbal ability checks – We’re talking things like deception, persuasion and intimidation. While you certainly can speak while deaf, attempting to have a conversation where you deceive someone or persuade them to do something can be difficult to do effectively. Intimidation might be easier but depending on the circumstances, you’ll likely incur disadvantage on these types of checks (unless speaking telepathically or with sign language).

Chances are, most other ability checks will be unaffected, though there may be instances where a lack of ability to hear will exclude you from making a check anyway as you’re unaware of conversations and events going on around you.

What can cause you to be deafened?

There are a few things that can cause you to be deafened. Mainly, these are spells and magic items but some natural effects might also cause the deafened condition like dynamite exploding or some kind of long term injury, though in most cases, these will be determined by the judgement of your DM.

Spells that cause deafened

There are a bunch of spells that cause the deafened condition, though usually as part of other effects included within the spell. Some even cause purposeful deafening like when casting project image and looking and seeing through the eyes and ears of your illusory double. The spells that cause the deafened condition include:

SpellLevelCasting TimeRangeSaving ThrowDurationClassesDescription
Blindness / Deafness2nd1 action30ftConstitution1 minuteBard, Cleric, Sorceror, WizardCauses blindness or deafness.
Silence2nd1 action120ft, 20ft radius sphereNone10 minutes concentrationBard, Cleric, RangerNo sound in the area and those in the area are deafened until they leave the spell area.
Warding Wind2nd1 actionSelf 10ft sphereNone10 minutesBard, Druid, Sorceror, Wizardvarious including deafening those in the area including yourself.
Mislead5th1 actionSelfNone1 minuteBard, WizardYou create an illusory double of yourself. When using its senses, you become blinded and deafened.
Project Image7th1 action500 milesNone1 day concentrationBard, WizardYou project an illusory double of yourself. When using its senses, you become blinded and deafened.
Divine Word7th1 bonus action30ftCharismaInstantaneousClericVarious including being deafened.
Storm of Vengeance9th1 actionsightConstitution1 minute concentrationDruidVarious including being deafened.

Magic items that cause deafened

While not a reliable way of being able to inflict the deafened condition on an enemy, if you have a generous DM, you may be gifted an item that can cause deafened. Even then, such items are not common. There are 2 items that can do this (though more may exist, especially in homebrew content). These are:

  • The staff of thunder and lightning
  • Horn of blasting

How do you prevent the deafened condition?

Wizard casting spell on mind flayer

If you’ve been deafened or know you’ll be up against a creature that can cause the condition, you don’t have many options to prevent it. There are some things you can do though to either end the condition or protect against it. These include:

  • High constitution – Before you’re made to be deafened, you normally have a saving throw to make. Typically, this is against your constitution so making sure your constitution is nice and high will help protect you against this condition.
  • Abilities that buff your saving throws – Some abilities can be used to boost your saving throws such as bardic inspiration or the spell heroes’ feast. While they don’t prevent the deafened condition outright, they can make you more likely to succeed on a saving throw against the condition.
  • Wait it out – Deafened is almost always a temporary and short-lived condition so you can either just wait for the condition to end, or wait to retake your saving throw.
  • Avoid environmental hazards – It may seem obvious, but being near a large explosion or a hazardous storm could cause you to be deafened. Keeping your distance should protect you against being deafened by these things.
  • Spells – There are some spells that can be used to end the deafened condition or provide advantage on saving throws against it These are; lesser restoration, heal, mass heal and aura of purity.
  • Elixir of health – An elixir of health can be used to cure the effects of deafened.

Spells that protect against deafened

SpellLevelCasting TimeRangeSaving ThrowDurationClassesDescription
Aura of Purity4th1 actionSelf (30ft radius)None10 minutes concentrationPaladinAllies in the area receive buffs including advantage on paralyzed saving throws
Lesser Restoration2nd1 actionTouchNoneInstantaneousBard, Cleric, Druid, Paladin, RangerEnd 1 disease or condition including paralyzed.
Heal6th1 action60ftNoneInstantaneousCleric, DruidHeals 70hp and cures blindness, deafness and disease.
Mass heal9th1 action60ftNoneInstantaneousClericHeal 700hp from among creatures in range and cure the effects of blindness, deafness and disease.

All condition guides

Conditions are powerful tools or problematic obstacles in D&D 5e. You can learn more about all the conditions of D&D 5e in our guides below:


Published by DM Ben

Ben is an experienced dungeon master and player who's been immersed in the D&D universe since he was a teenager over 20 years ago. When he's not writing for Dungeon Mister, Ben loves creating fiendish puzzles and devious dungeons for his players. He's an especially big fan of the Ravenloft and Dragonlance settings.