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Sensory impairment (HI,VI)

The term sensory impairment encompasses:

  • Visual loss (including blindness and partial sight)
  • Hearing loss (including the whole range)
  • Multi-sensory impairment (which means having a diagnosed visual and hearing impairment with at least a mild loss in each sense.  This is also called Dual Sensory Loss or deafblindness).


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What is visual impairment?

Many people have some type of visual problem at some point in their lives. Some can no longer see objects far away. Others have problems reading small print. These types of conditions are often easily treated with eyeglasses or contact lenses.

A child or young person is described as visually impaired when his/her eyesight cannot be corrected to a “normal level.” A person with a visual impairment may either be blind or partially sighted.

An eye specialist called an ophthalmologist will carry out tests to decide if a child or young person is severely sight impaired (blind) or sight impaired (partially sighted).

Some children and young people may only have severe sight impairment in one eye. If the other eye largely compensates for the loss of sight in the affected eye, the child or young person will not be described as having severe sight impairment.

Children who are visually impaired are as unique and as varied as any other group of children. One overall statement, however, does apply to most children who are visually impaired: a visually impaired child will typically learn about the world in a different way from a child without a visual impairment.

If your child has a medically diagnosed visual impairment which cannot be corrected by wearing glasses, they may need additional support to help them achieve their potential. You child's ophthalmologist will normally refer you to the Visual Impairment team to ensure that they receive specialist help with their education and learning

The local education authority will provide a qualified teacher of visually impaired children (QTVI) to work with you and your child at home and school. These specialist are qualifies teachers who have additional Qualifications and experience with working with children and young people with Serious sight problems. They should take an interest in your baby or pre-school child as soon as a serious sight problem is suspected or diagnosed.

What is hearing impairment?

An estimated 900,000 people in the UK have severe or profound hearing loss.

There are 50,000 children with hearing loss in the UK. Around half are born with hearing loss while the other half lose their hearing during childhood.

Different people are comfortable with particular words to describe their own deafness or hearing loss. In education the term ‘hearing impairment’ is used as an umbrella term to include those children and young people with varying degrees of hearing loss including those who may be assessed as being profoundly deaf. A deaf child or young person has little or no hearing.

Hearing loss may occur in one or both ears. Often children and young people’s hearing loss may be described in the following ways:

  • Mild
  • Moderate
  • Moderate-severe
  • Severe
  • Profound

Children suffering from hearing impairment have the ability to live full and productive lives in the same way as other children. But they need additional support when learning. Because of the hearing loss, hearing-impaired children need to have things carefully explained on a one-to-one basis.

What is multi-sensory impairment?

Deafblindness is a combination of sight and hearing impairment that affects how you communicate, access information and get around. Many people who are deafblind have some residual sight and/or hearing.

Dual-sensory impairment or multi-sensory impairment are other terms that may be used if you have both sight and hearing impairments.   There is lots of useful information on deafblindness on the Sense website.