See Hear

A strategic framework for meeting the needs of people with a sensory impairment in Scotland

3. Included Within this Strategy

3.1. For the purposes of this Strategy, Sensory Impairment covers children and adults living with sensory impairment. It includes people with varying degrees of hearing loss, sight loss and also with loss of both senses. Both hearing and sight loss can be present from birth, but for the majority of people a sensory loss will occur later in life, and can range from a relatively low level loss to a much more profound loss.

3.2. There are three main groupings that should be considered:

  • people with a recognised sensory impairment;
  • people at risk of sensory loss due to a range of factors;
  • people who are likely to be living with a 'hidden and untreated' sensory loss, e.g.
    people who have had a stroke, have a learning disability or dementia.

3.3. Included within the groups above, there will be people who are seeking work or are engaged in work. For these people the impact of a sensory loss can have significant implications for entering work, retraining, and being supported to stay in work.

3.4. It is also important to acknowledge that there are some groups within the world of sensory loss for whom that loss provides additional challenges both to them and to services who are seeking to provide integrated care pathways: examples of these groups are listed below.

Older people

3.5. It is now well understood that people are living longer, and consequently there is an increasing incidence of those illnesses and disabilities that increase with age. This strongly applies to hearing and sight loss (see figures below). The impact on an older person who may already be finding it less easy to continue with previous lifestyles can be very significant. Yet it is still the case that hearing or sight loss is often not recognised or responded to by caring agencies, including home carers, hospital or care home staff.

3.6. Sensory impairment is a major contributory factor in falls and subsequent admission to hospital, which is the major contributory factor to admission to a care home.

People with a learning disability

3.7. People with a learning disability are more likely to have a hearing loss, and are 10 times more likely to have a sight loss than people in the wider community. This can have a profound impact on how they are understood and are able to interact with others, and people with challenging behaviour will be more likely to challenge if there is a limited understanding of any sensory loss that they may have.

Children and young people

3.8. It is estimated that 40% of deaf children have some additional health, social or educational wellbeing need[4] while around 57% of children with visual impairment also have another disability.[5]

Hidden and untreated sensory loss

3.9. Hidden and/or untreated sensory loss leads to a withdrawal from social interaction. To a person with dementia, for example, failure to recognise and respond to a sensory loss will result in greater isolation, will generate behaviours that can be misinterpreted as symptoms of advancing dementia, and will lead to a consequent failure to respond appropriately to basic physical needs.

3.10. Specifically, neurological sight loss, caused by injury or trauma to the brain, is often undiagnosed and can, therefore, remain untreated. Between 20% and 60% of people who have a brain injury from stroke or traumatic injury have associated neurological visual impairment.[6] This type of sight loss has a significant, detrimental impact on survivors of brain injury and their carers.


Email: Alan Nicholson

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