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Sensory Impairments

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News flash :- One to One Support Services are running British Sign Language Courses Level 1,2,3 Next level 1 and 2  courses start 28th May 2012, 6pm till 8pm. Please call 01246 200018 for more information.


For those wishing to go on a course about deafblind why not join our next deafblind support workers course.  Contact us for details of the next course, to email click here 


What is sensory impairment?  

    Sensory impairment is when one of your senses; sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste and spatial awareness, is no longer normal. 

Examples - If you wear glasses you have a sight impairment , if you find it hard to hear or have a hearing aid then you have a hearing impairment.

  A person does not have to have full loss of a sense to be sensory impaired.

What is dual sensory impairment?

 It is the combination of both hearing and sight impairment. It is not necessarily a  total loss of both senses indeed the majority of dual sensory impaired people do have some degree of sight and/or hearing. Those with a less severe degree of both sight and hearing impairment may also be referred to as having a dual sensory impairment or loss. The words dual sensory impaired and deafblind are generally accepted as inter-changeable words.

  When a person has difficulties seeing and hearing then the person can be termed deafblind. Although it is more common to refer to someone as being deafblind if there combined sight and hearing loss which causes difficulties for them with communication, mobility and access to information.

 The combination of the two sensory impairments intensify the impact of each other, which  usually means that a deafblind person will have difficulty, or find it impossible, to utilise and benefit fully from services for deaf people or services for blind people. Meeting the needs of deafblind people therefore requires a separate approach.

    Deafblindness is a unique and extremely complex disability that often requires specialist communication methods and and systems being introduced to the person and those around them to enable communication to take place.

    Deafblindness has adverse effects on all areas of development, in particular the language acquisition process, conceptual development, motor development, behaviour and personality of a person.

People who are deafblind can generally be separated into two groups:
 Congenital Deafblindness - People who were born with a  
      hearing and vision impairment.
This category may also include individuals who are born hearing sighted, but who become deafblind through accident or illness within the first months of their lives. The important factor being that they become deafblind before they had the opportunity to gain formal language skills.
Acquired Deafblindness  - People who develop deafblindness later in life.
Three combinations are possible:
a)  Individuals who are born blind and later develop a hearing     
 b)  Individuals who are born deaf and later develop vision  
c)  Individuals who are born sighted and hearing, but later develop a  
     vision and hearing impairment.
Every deafblind person is an individual and may not fit neatly into any of the above categories, or use the suggested means of communication. Their situation may be complicated by the existence of other factors such as physical and/or learning disabilities etc.

  Of the UK's estimated 23,000 deafblind people have some remaining sight or hearing.

  With a single sensory loss, the person normally relies on the other sense to compensate.  However, with both senses lost a unique disability is considered. Which requires specialist communication skills and support.


   At one to one support services we believe everyone has the right to live as independently as possible and provide the services so they can. Interested in being a communication support worker? Helping people with a sight or hearing loss. Contact us now!


  95% of the information about the world around us comes from our sight and hearing. We talk to each other, we read our bills. newspapers and books, we listen to the radio. The environmental information we take for granted lets us know what is going on - e.g. tyres on a road, people chatting, rain on the windows, birds singing, peoples facial expressions and body language .We can go out side and move around freely , some of us drive cars. We rely heavily on our senses to interpret the world around us. With the loss of senses mobility and communication are greatly inhibited.  This can lead to increased isolation and loneliness. Frustration for the person and the carer is not uncommon.


   In the past Rubella , or german measles ,during pregnancy was a main cause of deafblindness. Now however thanks to vaccination it is uncommon. However there are still people born before the vaccine was introduced that need help. The rubella virus affected the developing baby and its effects can vary enormously. It is common for a hearing loss , visual difficulties and heart problems to occur.

  Now a days it is premature birth and severe infections during early childhood that cause congenital deafblindness. It is also unfortunate that these children may also have learning and other problems as well.


   Communication is the greatest challenge. A sighted and hearing child will reach out and explore its surroundings , a baby / child with sensory impairments will need encouragement to explore and interact.  Normal progress to language is hard. Intensive education and support may be needed throughout the persons lifetime. The key is for the intervention to be early in the child's life.  A unique communication method may be developed for the child  but what ever the means of communication , be that symbols, objects of reference , sign language, Braille , moon it will stimulate the child helping to further physical and mental and cognitive development.


   People who become deafblind later in life, acquired deafblindness, are commonly found to have a genetic condition known as Ushers syndrome. named after a Scottish Ophthalmologist - C. H Usher 1914. Ushers syndrome is a genetic condition that can lead to deafness or partial hearing from birth and the loss of sight over years. The speed of the sight loss can be steady of varying. The eye condition is known as Retinitis Pigmentosa. The onset of which often begins in late childhood. Balance may also be affected. Ushers syndrome being a genetic condition both parents will have the same Ushers genes but may carriers without the symptoms. It affects 3 - 6 % of people born Deaf.


 When some one who has one sensory loss is told that their other sense will go as well are devastated. They normally have come to terms with the single sensory loss and have found the support they need, be that from Deaf or blind clubs but then to lose the remaining sense means they may no longer fit in with their group. They become more isolated from friends and family and suffer emotionally.


   When we age our hearing and sight develop problems. The largest group of deafblind people are our elderly folk.

The ageing process is the most common cause of acquired deafblindness. Sight loss can occur through eye conditions such as Cataracts and Macular Degeneration.  
Hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors.  People who have worked in noisy environments all their lives may develop a hearing loss. Illness is another cause; or it may just be simply caused by the ageing process.
Our elderly population is the largest single group of people with acquired deafblindness. There are no precise figures how many people make up this group; but it is estimated that 40 people out of 100,000  people are deafblind.  90% of these are likely to be over 60 years of age. There are also a further 250,000 people with a lesser degree of combined loss.
However it is also important to recognise that some people who have become deafblind later in life are unable to speak. This may the result of a stroke or another speech defect.

Often there becomes a point when adaptations and medial intervention are not enough for someone to fully support them self. Everyday tasks such as reading mail , going to the shop's or answering the door become a challenge. Hobbies and leisure pursuits are not participated in and the cycle of isolation begins. Depression and anxiety are not uncommon , all of which does not help any underlying medical condition.

 We at One to One Support Services can help with support so a person can remain independent as possible.

   Where can I go for help?  Well you can of course ring us and we will help or you can ring social services to see what they can do.  To contact us, please click here


There are also national charities that offer support and advice. Please see our links page for more information.


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