Sight or Hearing Concerns: Signs to Watch For and Sources of Support

SEND specialist, Cheryl Bedding, shares possible indicators of hearing and visual impairments that parents can look out for, and offers advice for supporting your child at home

**The information below is not intended as medical advice and is only intended to offer points you may wish to consider, together with signposting for more support. You should consult an appropriate medical professional if you have concerns about your child.

Hearing Impairment

All babies are given a hearing check as standard within the first few weeks after their birth and any early indicators or concerns should be highlighted at this stage.

However, some possible indicators of hearing impairment that new parents may want to be aware of as babies develop could be:

  • Not being startled by loud noises
  • Not turning to the call of their name or noises after around 4 months

In addition, although the examples below may just be part of normal developmental progress, there are other indicators that could signal hearing difficulties in young children. These can include:

  • Misunderstanding others
  • Seemingly ignoring instructions or their name being called
  • Speaking loudly or muffled speech
  • Possible withdrawal within large social, noisy situations
  • Asking for others to repeat what they are saying
  • Problems with concentration
  • Unclear speech patterns or delayed speech

Supporting your child at home

Try to avoid putting any additional pressures on your child with regards to speech, or making a big issue of the situation - albeit difficult to do - until you are aware of more information from your health care provider.

You can help support your child at home while waiting for referrals. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Keep speech simple and clear
  • Use gestures to aid understanding of your verbal sounds
  • Don’t use long instructions, break them down
  • Use picture cards to indicate a choice or even what might be happening next
  • Cut down on background noise – avoid having the TV/radio on in the background that can impact on what they can hear
  • Make eye contact before you speak with them
  • Soft furnishings can absorb additional noises
  • Seek support from other professionals and build your support network. Find others who are going through what you are and know that you are not on your own.

Visual Impairment

Definition: any non-correctional vision loss

By eight weeks, babies begin to more easily focus their eyes on objects and faces. For the first two months of life, an infant's eyes are not well coordinated and may appear to wander or to be crossed. This is usually normal.

There are several possible indicators that a child might have a visual impairment. These include:

  • Misaligned eyes
  • Eyes fluttering quickly from side to side
  • Possible discomfort in their eyes or redness
  • Limited eye contact
  • Little or no reaction to a change in brightness in their environment
  • A baby might use their mouth for exploration for longer than you’d expect

Older children may also:

  • Hold a book nearer to their face
  • Want to sit closer to the TV
  • Seem clumsy and trip over a lot

Supporting your child at home

  • Give your child time to explore things in greater details with their other senses
  • Use descriptive words and support and encouragement
  • Singing songs and nursery rhymes whilst sat in front of them
  • Make connections for them with what they can hear, for example, naming the dog barking or the doorbell ringing
  • Adding an object that makes sounds to their wrists or feet, helping them to discover their own bodies
  • Help them to move their body in a variety of positions – rolling, turning etc.

If you have concerns with any aspect of your child’s development, it’s always important to speak directly with your health visitor or GP and keep your child’s key person at nursery updated and informed. They will ensure that they work with you and offer any guidance they can to support you and your family.


Extra Resources

*Please note that this list is general signposting and is not a specific endorsement or recommendation by Bright Horizons. Should you utilise or download any of these resources, any exchange of data is solely between you and that provider. These resources may be subject to their own terms and conditions and/or privacy notice. (As Bright Horizons has no control of the contents of the external resources, it can assume no responsibility or liability for these resources or the provider’s use of any data you share with them.)