Sensory disabilities are the disabilities affecting an individual’s senses, such as hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste. The main causes of sensory disabilities include accidents or injury, genetic factors, illnesses, or environmental factors. Some of the sensory disabilities can be corrected through surgery, while others are long-life disorders.
The main types of sensory disabilities include blindness and low vision, hearing loss and Deafness, deaf-blindness, and sensory processing disorder.
1. Blindness and Low Vision
Low vision is defined by permanent vision loss, which cannot be corrected using glasses and affects daily functioning. People with low vision have permanent loss of sight sensory, hence cannot recognize any object or person when presented with them. Such individuals have difficulties navigating through daily life; hence, they require supportive devices and objects such as a walking cane, a walking dog, and braille for learning. An individual is considered blind if their field of vision is less than 20 degrees in diameter. It can also be determined by the distance by which one can see when looking straight ahead. Some blind individuals can read materials written in large prints and placed near them. Blindness and loss of vision are caused by various factors, including accidents, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, eye defects, tumors, macular degeneration, cataracts, retinitis pigmentosa, and detached retinas. Some eye conditions leading to blindness or low vision are present at or near birth, while others develop later in life. As people age, they develop sight problems, which is evident in individuals who are 70 years and older individuals. Some of the vision loss problems can be reversed, while some become a life-long problem.
2. Hearing loss and Deafness
Hearing loss is the loss of the hearing sensory. Hearing loss disability can range from mild to severe. Individuals with mild or partial hearing loss tend to hear but under some conditions, such as loud sounds or use of hearing devices. The severity of the hearing loss is presented by total loss of hearing where an individual has no hearing regardless of how loud the sound is, and the problem cannot be reversed. Hearing loss is caused by a number of factors such as injury or infection, difficulties during birth, exposure to loud noises, genetic causes, childhood diseases such as measles, rubella, and mumps, damaged auditory nerves, and build-up of fluid due to perforated eardrum caused outer ear blockage. Most individuals tend to develop hearing loss as they age. Hearing loss at old age is usually diagnosed as dementia, where the individuals have problems hearing. People with hearing loss communicate can use sign language or speech. However, the use of speech depends on the severity of the disability and age of onset. American Sign Language (ASL) or British Sign Language (BSL) is the common sign language used by people with hearing loss. In case the individual with hearing loss does not understand English, they may require an interpreter to help during communications. When there are no language barriers, people with hearing loss can process information by reading the speaker’s lips.
Deaf-blindness is also known as dual sensory loss. This type of sensory disability is characterized by loss of both hearing and seeing. People with dual sensory loss have difficulties navigating through day-to-day life as they require assistance to communicate, access, and mobilize information. Unlike hearing loss and vision loss disabilities, dual sensory loss disability is not common as only a few percentages of people have the disability. Dual sensory loss is mainly caused by genetic problems, accidents or injury, congenital disabilities, infections, and diseases such as Usher Syndrome. Some individuals develop the problem as a result of environmental factors. For example, when an individual with low vision is exposed to high frequencies of noise, they can develop a hearing disability. Also, when a person with a hearing disability is not provided with adequate assistance, they may likely get involved in accidents, which can damage their visual senses, hence developing low vision disability. Dual sensory loss is prevalent among older people, which makes it misdiagnosed as dementia. Dementia is also characterized by both hearing and vision loss. Special care is required to care for individuals with a dual sensory loss disability as they can not carry out daily life activities, including simple communication is hard for them.
4. Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory processing disorder is a disability where an individual has difficulties receiving and responding to information coming in via senses. Although not recognized as a distinct medical condition, the disorder is a disability that has raised scientists and other health stakeholders’ concerns. Individuals with sensory processing disorder tend to misinterpret the sensory information where they either overreact to the information, under-respond to information, or not react at all. Day to day sounds can be overwhelming or painful to such people, and touch may chafe the skin. Other signs and symptoms of sensory processing disorder include:
- Difficulty engaging in conversation or play when it comes to children
- Bump into things as the brain may process the wrong information seen by the eyes
- Incoordination or seem clumsy
- Lack of ability to feel some of their body parts
- Complain of light being too bright
- Soft touches feel hard
- Normal sounds are too loud or irritating
- Clothing feels itchy or scratchy
- Sensory processing disorder is prevalent in children, but it can also be found in adults.
Children with sensory processing disorder start out being fussy and later grow to become anxious adults. Individuals with sensory processing disorder do not handle change very well as they tend to have frequent meltdowns and throw tantrums. Since most children are fussy, parents should only become concerned if the symptoms affect their children’s daily lives. This sensory disability is commonly seen in other developmental conditions in children, such as autism.