Genetic analysis of 457 patients with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) included categorisation of families by recognised mendelian pattern of inheritance and formal segregation analysis of all informative sibships. Of the 368 probands a surprisingly high 18% (68) had significant congenital loss of hearing and were diagnosed as having Usher syndrome. The RP probands were categorised as: 21.7% autosomal dominant, 9.0% X-linked, 16.0% autosomal recessive, 3.3% genetic type uncertain, and 50.0% simplex. Segregation analysis reflected this high proportion of simplex cases, accounting for reduced penetrance in dominant families; only 20% remain classified as sporadic (possibly nongenetic). In the matings between normal persons estimates of the segregation ratio also indicate lower values than expected. Unlike in RP sibship, segregation in the Usher syndrome is consistent with the hypothesis of recessive inheritance. Therefore RP with significant hearing loss segregates as expected, while even if a proband is classified as a dominant or recessive the recurrence risk for the RP phenotype may be below mendelian expectation.