Sensory impairments

Sensory impairment is the common term used to describe:

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

Deafness and hearing impairment 

If you find it hard to hear or have a hearing aid then you have a hearing impairment. Hearing loss may be caused by a number of factors. This can include:

  • genetics
  • old age
  • exposure to noise
  • infections
  • birth complications
  • trauma to the ear
  • certain medications or toxins.

Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent and can affect all age groups.

Viral infections of the inner ear can cause hearing loss to occur all of a sudden. However, the loss may be gradual. Common symptoms of people with gradual hearing loss notice things such as difficulty hearing the TV or a conversation in a noisy environment.

Another common effect of hearing loss is continual ringing in the ear which is caused by conditions such as tinnitus.

Living with deafness and hearing loss

The treatments for hearing loss depend on what's causing it. The NHS website provides advice and information on the different treatments for hearing loss

Consulting your GP

If you feel that your hearing is getting worse, you need to make an appointment with your GP. Find your nearest GP.

Your GP will look in both ears, and may find that it is a problem that can be corrected at the surgery or may choose to refer you to the audiology department. They may suggest that you try using one or two hearing aids.

Going private

You may choose to go to a private company for a hearing test and to buy hearing aids yourself. If you do this, make sure you choose a company that you trust and one that will continue to offer you support after you have bought your hearing aids.

Equipment and home adaptions

There are also items of equipment which can help, and ways in which you can adapt your home so you don't have to rely on sound. More information can be found in the living independently at home section.

Blindness or visual impairment 

Visual impairment or low vision is a severe reduction in vision that cannot be corrected with standard glasses or contact lenses, and reduces a person’s ability to function at certain or all tasks.

Visual impairment or low vision can be caused by a variety of conditions such as:

  • cataracts
  • diabetes
  • glaucoma
  • genetic defects or an injury
  • macular degeneration
  • visual cortex disorder.

A person can be registered partially sighted or severely sight impaired, ie blind.

Living with sight impairment

Many people who live with sight impairment experience different levels of sight loss. Some people are only able to determine lights or shapes, while others may experience blurred vision.

Sight impairment can cause loss of sight in the centre of the eye or no side vision. It can also cause difficulty seeing at night. It is uncommon for someone to have no vision at all even if the person is registered blind.

Eye strain and headaches are also a common side effect of living with sight impairment.

Consulting your GP or optician

If you have any concerns about your eye sight, or feel that your sight has deteriorated, you should always consult your GP or an optician.

You may be referred to an eye clinic or ophthalmologist (a specialist in eyes). They examine your eyes and determine if there are any possible treatments for your condition. In a lot of cases your sight could be improved simply by different glasses or cataract surgery.

Find an optician near you.

Guide dogs

If you are blind or partially sighted, a guide dog could help you to be independently mobile when out and about.

Guide Dogs provides both dogs to people who are blind or partially sighted, and training on how to use them.

Assistive equipment and technology

There are items of equipment available to help you manage your sight loss. This includes assistive technology that can help with using a computer, including the Browsealoud web reader function on this website.

Find out more on the  Living independently at home section.

Deafblindness or dual sensory impairment

Deafblindness is the loss of sight and hearing to the point where your communication, mobility and ability to access information are impacted. This includes ‘progressive’ sight and hearing loss, where your sight and hearing may deteriorate over a period of time.

Deafblindness is often also referred to as ‘dual sensory loss’ or ‘dual sensory impairment’.

Lots of useful information and advice can be found on the Deafblind UK website.

Sight and Hearing Service works with blind, partially sighted, deaf, hard of hearing or deafblind adults living in Tower Hamlets.

The service promotes independence, equality and inclusion by providing a personalised service which will enable each person to have choice and control over their life.

They use their specialist knowledge and skills to work with the person, their carer, family, community and services to enable them to achieve positive outcomes.

The Sight and Hearing Service may be able to help, if you are having difficulties due to a hearing loss, visual loss or a dual sensory loss. 

How can the service can help you?

The service can provide:

  • general information and advice


  • an assessment of your needs related to your sight loss, hearing loss or dual sensory loss
  • environmental assessments related to your sight loss, hearing loss or dual sensory loss
  • support services to meet your eligible needs following assessment, this may include practical support and specialist equipment


  • vision rehabilitation training and equipment to encourage your independent living skills
  • mobility /travel training for blind and partially sighted people
  • classes in braille and advice on IT equipment
  • the Sight and Hearing service is part of the reablement service and can access reablement officer support as needed

Local community

  • links with local community groups and the NHS who work with adults that have a sensory loss.

Contact the Sight and Hearing service through Tower Hamlets Connect