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Sensory Impairment

What is a sensory impairment?

Sensory Impairment means when our body doesn’t properly sense things and pass this information on to our brain, as it normally should. This can lead to a loss of sensation, which includes our five primary senses – sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. Impairments may be caused by a variety of things, but ageing is generally the most common.

Developmental disabilities such as autism are also classed as sensory impairments, as they interfere with how someone reacts with the outside world. Sensory impairments can be very mild, such as permanently needing glasses to see properly, they can be severe, such as struggling to see even with glasses, or they can be very severe, such as a complete loss of vision.

What support services are available?

Impairments can be frustrating in their mild form, and may require minor adjustments to your life. More severe impairments, however, can be life-changing, requiring major life adjustments. There is support there for you, which can help you overcome the physical and psychological changes impairments can bring to your life. There are many support services, both local and national, including:

For a full list of care services for people with sensory impairments in the North Lincolnshire area, the NHS provides an extensive list of available services.


Adapting to a sensory impairment

Sometimes, impairments may not be particularly serious, and you only need to make minor changes, such as needing glasses. However, being told you have an impairment that cannot be treated, or that will get worse, can be very difficult to come to terms with. Some people can go through a process similar to grief: shock, anger, denial, and, eventually, acceptance of their condition. However, with the right support and guidance, you can still live a happy, fulfilled life.

Your workplace is obligated to provide adjustments to help you continue your role if they can be implemented. For example, if you work in an office, special software could be installed on your laptop to help you if you are visually impaired.

It is common to experience a wide range of emotions, as well as bouts of anxiety, depression, and stress, as a reaction to bad news. The most important thing to do is talk to someone you can trust – a problem shared is pain spared. However, if you do feel that these emotions are becoming overwhelming, you should consider visiting your GP.


Supporting someone with a sensory impairment

People react to bad news in different ways, and the same is true for someone with a sensory impairment. It will all depend on the personality of the person as to how they respond, and how you can help them.

You may find you don’t quite know how to respond to someone now living with a disability or impairment, or that you will have to find new ways to express your feelings to them. For example, around 55 percent of how we communicate is through body language, but someone who is partially-sighted or blind will not be able to see this, so you may find you need to adapt your tone of voice.

The most important thing to remember when supporting someone is to allow them to live with as much independence and dignity as possible. Doing everything for the person may leave them feeling suffocated and frustrated at their lack of independence, especially if they were used to doing everything for themselves beforehand.

Last reviewed: 26/09/2017