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Sensory Impairment

What is sensory impairment?

The term sensory impairment encompasses visual loss (including blindness and partial sight), hearing loss (including the whole range) and multi sensory impairment (which means having a diagnosed visual and hearing impairment with at least a mild loss in each sense, or deafblindness).

What is visual impairment (VI?)

This term covers varying degrees of vision loss including those who are registered
severely sight impaired (blind).  This would generally be diagnosed by a GP.  If your
child has recently been diagnosed with a visual impairment, there are a range of
organisations that can help support you. 


The eye clinic will provide a diagnosis of your child’s sight loss and, depending on certain criteria, will refer your child to the Peterborough Sensory Support Service. 

The eye clinic will develop a more detailed picture of your child’s sight loss and share with you a clinical report. Glasses, if prescribed, will be specifically made for your child.

What is hearing impairment (HI?)

Conductive deafness occurs when sound is unable to pass efficiently through the outer and middle ear to the cochlea (inner ear) and auditory (hearing) nerve.  The most common cause of conductive deafness in childhood is glue ear (fluid in the middle ear) which is usually a temporary condition. Glue ear (also known as OME – otitis media with effusion) affects about one in five pre-school children at any time. Conductive deafness can also be caused by a perforation (hole) in the eardrum or when part of the outer or middle ear didn’t form properly before birth.

Sensorineural deafness occurs when there is a fault in the cochlea or auditory nerve which carries sound signals to the brain. Sensorineural deafness is permanent.

Mixed deafness is a combination of sensorineural and conductive deafness.  One example of mixed deafness is when someone has glue ear as well as sensorineural deafness.

Glue ear, for most children, resolves by itself and doesn’t need any treatment. For some children with long-term or severe glue ear, hearing aids may be provided; or the child may need surgery to insert grommets. Grommets are tiny plastic tubes which are inserted into the eardrum. They allow air to circulate in the middle ear keeping the pressure on either side of the eardrum equal and therefore helping to prevent fluid from building up.


The audiologist will give a diagnosis of your child’s hearing loss. The audiologist will gradually get a more detailed picture of your child’s hearing loss.  Hearing aids, if prescribed, will be programmed especially for your child. These appointments will generally take place at Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

If your child’s hearing loss is profound you may be offered assessment for cochlear implants (CI). The closest cochlear implant team is the Emmeline Centre at Addenbrookes.

Information on newborn hearing screening can be found here.

If you have concerns regarding your child’s hearing, in the first instance you should go to your GP

What is multi-sensory impairment (MSI)?

This is the term used to describe students who have a combination of visual and hearing
loss. They are sometimes referred to as deafblind, although many have some residual sight
and/or hearing.   If both are evident from birth the diagnosis would be made by a hospital

Sensory and Physical Support Service

Young man in day centre

The Sensory and Physical Support Service aims to ensure the inclusion and achievement of children and young people with sensory and physical impairments and the building of expertise and capacity within schools in Peterborough, in line with current local and national strategies.

Resources for parents of blind or partially sighted children

The Parents' Guide gives information about vision and eye conditions and all aspects of raising a child with VI through early years into nursery and school and beyond. The guide is available online as an accessible pdf, and can be downloaded from

Let’s play! A guide with toy and play ideas for children with vision impairment

The Play Guide has been written with two parents, one of whom has a 6 year old son who is blind, and one of whom is partially-sighted herself and founder of the #toylikeme campaign. The guide will give parents ideas about creating safe, fun and stimulating play environments, understanding different play styles and how to choose suitable toys. The guide also has listings of toys, both available on the high street, and the range of toys retailed by RNIB. It is available to download at

At the moment these guides are available online only, not in full hard copy.

SENSE Getting a Result - information pack

Sense logo

The Department for Education and SENSE have published a guide and a series of factsheets on a whole range of ‘transition/preparing for adulthood topics’ 

Whilst they would prefer you to download the pack, they do have a limited run of hard copies. Please contact Sense's Information and Advice Service to request a hard copy if required.

Understanding your child's hearing tests

What are aetiological investigations?

There are a range of medical tests that can be carried out to try and find the cause of your child’s deafness. The process to find out why a child is deaf is sometimes called aetiological investigation.

Why carry out aetiological investigations?

Every child with a permanent deafness may be offered investigations. Knowing the cause of the deafness is important for planning your child’s care. You may find it helpful to know what caused your child’s deafness or if a specific cause cannot be identified you may find it helpful to know some things that did not cause your child’s deafness. It is important to know about any associated medical conditions so you can consider appropriate treatment or ways of managing the deafness or condition. In some cases identifying the cause can help prevent further deterioration of the hearing.

For further information see “Understanding your child’s hearing tests: A guide to the hearing and medical tests that are used to find out the type, level and cause of deafness” published by the National Deaf Children’s Society.

Sensory Impaired young adults who want to understand their aetiology and what impact it might have on their children in the future can ask their GP to refer them to Genetics.

SEND Resources and Training

Professionals sitting around a table

The SEND Resources and Training page hosts a collection of resources, newsletters and training opportunities. 

Listen or