H&F Council Adult Social Care - Living Independently
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Sensory impairment

Sensory impairment is the common term used to describe Deafness, blindness, visual impairment, hearing impairment and Deafblindness.

Sensory impairment is when one of your senses, including sight and hearing is no longer normal.

An example of visual impairment is when your vision can't be corrected with prescription glasses or 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.

Hearing impairment and Deafness

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.

Visit the NHS Choices, hearing loss to find out more. Hearing loss | NHS

Hearing loss may be gradual such as people who are in later life. Common symptoms of people with gradual hearing loss notice things such as difficulty hearing the TV or a conversation in a noisy environment.

Viral infections of the inner ear can also cause hearing loss to occur all of a sudden.

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

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

Find your nearest GP

If you start to have problems with your hearing, first you should visit your doctor.

Your doctor 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 at the hospital where:

  • you will get a hearing test
  • you will receive a copy of your audiogram
  • they might suggest that you try using one or two hearing aids.

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.

The treatments for hearing loss depend on what's causing it. The NHS website provides advice and information about the different treatments for hearing loss. Find out about hearing aids and implants, cochlear implants and other treatments.

Hearing loss - Treatment | NHS.

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.

Equipment options include:

  • minicoms (telephones that use text rather than speech)
  • flashing light doorbells
  • vibrating pager systems
  • door chimes
  • vibrating alarm clocks
  • loop systems

DeafEquipment are one of many online shops specialising in equipment for deaf and hard of hearing people.

Deaf Equipment

RNID provide extensive information on the different types of equipment available for people with a hearing loss, and on how you can access them.

Technology and assistive devices | RNID

They also have an online shop where you can buy suitable equipment.

RNID Connevans

Some people with hearing impairment may choose to have an assistance dog. The main charity that provides these in the UK is Hearing Dogs For The Deaf. The dogs are specially trained to respond to everyday household sounds and alert their owners.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People

Many people with hearing impairment live full and rich lives and don't feel they need treatment to restore their hearing.

Information on British Sign Language

RNID provides information on British Sign Language and other ways to communicate.

Search for BSL interpreters

You can search for registered BSL interpreters in your area on the National Register of Communications Professionals website.

Learn communicating skills

H&F adult learning service offer courses in BSL and lip reading.

Deaf Unity provide online courses in BSL

Who can get help from us?

Anyone aged 18 or over, who lives in Hammersmith & Fulham and is deaf or hard of hearing can get help from us. We also provide services for people who have both hearing and sight loss.

What help is available?

There are different degrees of hearing loss, so the type and amount of help needed varies. For this reason, we carry out an assessment before we arrange services. This is an opportunity to talk to you about your needs and to make sure we provide the right level of support for you. The assessment can be carried out using BSL, SSE lip speaker or note taker.

Examples of some of the services provided following your assessment are:

  • equipment to help you manage in your own home
  • information about the services and activities available locally
  • practical help with interpreting letters and telephone calls
  • support from a social worker with practical and social problems
  • referral to other services such as the meals service or home help service

Do I have to be registered?

Registration helps us know how many people with hearing loss live in the borough. This helps us plan our services. If you choose not to register, it will not affect your assessment for services.

More information about registering as sight or hearing impaired can be found further down this page.

How you can receive a service

You can receive a service via:

  • appointments
  • SMS/email/phone/minicom/fax
  • home visits
  • being signposted to other services

Contact us about getting help

If you would like to know more about how we can help you and our services visit Contact us

If you would like to request an assessment please visit Assessments for care

Visual impairment and sight loss

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.

A person can be registered partially sighted or severely sight impaired (blind).

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

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.

Find out more about blindness and vision loss | NHS

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 | NHS

The NHS website provides advice and information about visual impairment.

Find out more about blindness and vision loss | NHS

There are many pieces of equipment available to assist you to overcome the problems presented by your sight loss, and to enable you to adapt your environment so that it is better suited to your needs.

Many people will be familiar with the white canes which people use, both to tell those around them that they have a sight loss, and to allow them to navigate round potential obstacles more safely.

Other equipment options include:-

  • talking books
  • liquid level indicators
  • writing frames
  • symbol canes
  • large button telephones
  • talking clocks and watches

The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) website has a 'shop' section which offers all kinds of supportive equipment, as well as specially adapted toys, games and other leisure items.

RNIB Online Shop

Visual impairment and computing

Choosing the right kind of assistive technology can transform the abilities of visually impaired people to perform everyday computing tasks like:

  • reading documents
  • producing letters and reports
  • sending and receiving emails
  • browsing the web
  • communicating through social media
  • working with spreadsheets and data entry

Find out more about using assistive technology on your computer: 

Vision impairment and Computing | AbilityNet

Guide dogs

There are over 4,700 guide dog owners in the UK. If you are blind or partially sighted, a guide dog could change your life by enabling you to be independently mobile when out and about.

The Guide Dog charity provides both dogs to people who are blind or partially sighted, and training on how to use them

Getting support | Guide Dogs

Sighted guides

The Guide Dog charity also arrange for volunteers to act as guides and to support people with sight loss as they get out about and about. The My Guide scheme offers training to the volunteers, and also offers training to businesses to help them to meet the needs of customers with sight loss.

My Sighted Guide service | Guide Dogs

Who can get help from us?

Visually impaired residents of Hammersmith & Fulham, irrespective of their age or whether they are registered as blind or partially sighted can get help from us.

What help is available?

There are different degrees of sight loss, so the type and amount of help needed varies. For this reason, we carry out an assessment before we arrange services. This is an opportunity to talk to you about your needs and to make sure we provide the right level of support for you.

Examples of some of the services we may provide following your assessment are:

  • information about the services and activities available locally for blind or partially sighted people
  • support to learn the skills to manage practical tasks around the home
  • training and advice on mobility, to increase confidence and safety out and about and at home.
  • tuition in using a white cane, crossing roads, shopping and using public transport
  • help with communication difficulties such as reading, writing and using the telephone and help telling the time
  • equipment to help you manage in your own home
  • referral to a social worker to help with practical and social problems or to other services such as Meals on Wheels or home help
  • referral to voluntary agencies such as BlindAid or Guide Dogs.

Do I have to be registered?

Registration helps us know how many people with visual impairment live in the borough. This helps us plan our services. If you choose not to register, it will not affect your assessment for services.

More information about registering as sight or hearing impaired can be found further down this page.

Contact us about getting help

If you would like to know more about how we can help you and our services visit Contact us

If you would like to request an assessment please visit Assessments for care

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’.

Deafblind uk have a free information and advice line to answer your queries and offer confidential and impartial advice.Their website provides lots of information about sight and hearing loss.

Information & advice | Deafblind UK

Conditions | Sense, for people with complex disabilities

Registration simply means being on your social services register of people with sensory impairment.

Registering as hearing impaired

To register you will first need to visit your GP for an assessment. Your GP can then refer you to an audiologist for a hearing test. When you provide us with your test results (audiogram) we will ask you if you would like to be registered and offer you an assessment of your needs.

There are three levels of registration, either as:

  • Deaf
  • Deaf with speech
  • Hard of hearing.

If you are registered, you may be able to claim certain benefits. For example, if you are registered with profound hearing loss you may be entitled to:

  • transport discounts such as a Freedom Pass or Disabled Person's Rail Card
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Attendance Allowance

Find out more about the benefits and support you may be entitled to on RNID

Information leaflets | RNID

Registering as blind or partially sighted

Some levels of sight loss qualify you to be registered as blind or partially sighted. Registering means that you can get access to a number of benefits including:

  • free advice on dealing with sight loss
  • free sight tests
  • special equipment to help you
  • discounts on your TV Licence
  • some disability benefits
  • discounts on public transport such as a Disabled Person's Railcard
  • free or discounted corrective lenses (if these are suitable for you)

To register you will first need to be seen by a consultant ophthalmologist (eye specialist). Ask your doctor or optician to refer you. The ophthalmologist will conduct a series of tests to measure your vision and, depending on the results of the test, will issue you with a Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI).

If you are issued with a CVI you can then choose to register as blind or partially sighted with us and we will issue you with a National Registration Card which will entitle you to access the benefits listed above.

For more information about registering visit Registering as sight impaired | RNIB

Contact us about getting help

If you would like to know more about registering your hearing or sight loss and our services visit Contact us

If you would like to request an assessment please visit Assessments for care

Carers of people with sight or hearing loss

You might be able to get extra help from us if you care for someone with hearing or sight loss. We can talk with you about your caring responsibilities and work out what we can do to help. Even if that's just giving you a break every now and then.

Get a carers assessment

Last updated: 22/04/2021