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).

Further information on local providers and services is available online

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 multisensory 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 paediatrician.  

Sensory and Physical Support Service

The sensory support service works with hearing impaired and visually impaired children from early years until they leave full time education. Qualified teachers of the deaf, support children with hearing losses which range from mild to profound; most of them will be hearing aid wearers. Qualified teachers of visual impairment support children with medically diagnosed visual impairments within a spectrum of mild to profound.

The team work with children in all schools, including those with hubs, and families at home and provide practical advice on aspects of language and communication. The team discuss with parents the level of support your child will need and the range of specialist equipment available.

The team may be involved with a child from soon after birth until they leave full time education so may be regularly involved, alongside parents, with school and other professionals supporting through key education stages.

From September 2016, working in partnership with the Local Authority Sensory and Physical Support Service there are three schools with hearing impaired hubs providing intensive support for pupils with the highest hearing impairment needs alongside sharing good practise strategies across the city with mainstream schools also supporting high needs hearing impaired pupils. These are at Middleton Primary School. St John Fisher Catholic School and Jack Hunt School.

Due to the low incident numbers of visual impairment there is no visual impairment hub.

There are two schools with physical disability hubs - Ormiston Meadows Academy and Jack Hunt School.

Where to go for more information after a recent diagnosis.

The links below will take you to a range of organisations that can provide help and support.

Organisations that can offer support for hearing impairment

Organisations that can offer support for visual impairment

Organisations that can support sensory impairment professionals

Other useful information

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

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’ 

This link will take you to their webpage where you can view copies of the ‘Getting a Result’ booklet and lots of really useful factsheets in pdf format.

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.

Cambridgeshire Deaf Association Spring Newsletter

The Spring Newsletter for Cambridgeshire Deaf Association is out now. Click here to find out more.

Have your say

We want to make sure that Peterborough's Local Offer continues to develop to meet the needs of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, and their families To let us know your views please fill in our online feedback form.