What are sensory alterations?

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What are sensory alterations?
Sensory alterations can affect your ability to function in life. (Marili Forastieri/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Senses help people understand and function in the world. If you or a loved one begin to experience changes in their perception, it could make life more difficult. The three different types of sensory alterations are sensory deficit, sensory deprivation and sensory overload.

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Sensory Deficit

Sensory deficits are when one of a person's senses becomes weaker. Examples include hearing loss and poor eyesight. Having sensory deficits can make it more likely that a person will suffer from sensory overload or deprivation. A person's experience of sensory deficits may be more difficult if the demise of the sense is rapid rather than gradual.

Sensory Overload

Sensory overload is when someone perceives a large amount of stimuli at once, resulting in the individual being unable to process all the information they are taking in. People are more likely to suffer from sensory overload if they have something wrong with their central nervous system, if they are experiencing pain due to a heightened sensitivity to or an increase in internal stimuli, and if they are in a busy environment, particularly one in which they encounter strangers, such as health care visitors.

Sensory Deprivation

Sensory deprivation is the opposite of sensory overload and relates to when a person takes in only a small amount of stimuli. It can result in many symptoms, including hallucinations, depression, a lack of concentration, confusion, boredom, apathy and fatigue. People who have been socially or physically isolated, have brain damage, are on medications that affect the central nervous system or who suffer from sensory deficits may be at a higher risk of experiencing sensory deprivation.


The functioning of people with sensory alterations could be helped with the use of certain implements to make up for sensory deficits or through environmental or lifestyles changes. For instance, a person with poor eyesight may be provided with glasses or contact lenses, a person with hearing loss may find using a hearing aid helpful and a person with sensory alterations around smell may benefit from being surrounded by the aroma of pleasant odours like coffee, bread or flowers.

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