Premature birth and sensory impairments in children

The length of a typical pregnancy varies between about 37 and 42 weeks. The World Health Organization defines prematurity (preterm) as babies born before 37 weeks. In 2010, a little above seven per cent of babies in England and Wales were born before 37 weeks.

Simply labelling a baby as premature is of limited use and attention should instead be paid to how premature the baby is. Generally the earlier a baby is born the higher the risk of health problems. The preterm baby will typically have a lower birth weight than babies born at full term.

One thirty year study in Canada found that by the age of three years old just over three per cent of children born at 28 weeks or less and with a birth weight of less than 1250g (2lb12oz) had some level of permanent hearing loss. Just under two per cent had a severe or profound hearing loss.

View more information, guidance and sign-posting for parents and carers of children born prematurely.

Some children have hearing or vision impairments, or both, as a result of their prematurity.

Sense Children’s Specialist Services

Sense's Children's Specialist Services are a team of specialist advisory teachers, children’s therapists, and Children and Family Support Workers.

The team provides advice and information to multi-sensory-impaired children and young people, to their families or carers, and to the professionals who work with them. They also provide support in the home, at school or at their centres of excellence.

Related links in this section

Hearing impairment and prematurity

Visual impairment and prematurity

Multi-sensory impairment and prematurity


The Information Standard 'Certified member' logoThis page is not a substitute for a consultation with a health professional and should not to be used as a means of diagnosing a condition.

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Reviewed: May 2015
Review due: May 2017

First published: Wednesday 21 August 2013
Updated: Friday 17 November 2017