In the UK there are 23,000 deafblind people. 8.9 million people have some form of hearing impairment, and between 1.5 million and 2 million are visually impaired.

Music involves sight, sound and touch. People with a sensory impairment often develop a greater responsiveness in the senses that remain intact and musical activity can facilitate this.

The term physical impairment can indicate a range of different conditions. These include congenital disabilities such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida and progressive conditions such as muscular dystrophy. We also include here conditions that create lung weakness, such as asthma, cystic fibrosis or lung disease.

Potential benefits

Every course of music therapy is different, and there are no set results. However, some of the ways that people with physical impairment have been found to benefit from music include:

For those facing death, the opportunity to be creative in musical activity can be an accompaniment on their journey. The formats in which music is offered are variable and flexible and people are facilitated to play, sing or listen to music in a way that is right for them.

"I arrived in hospital unconscious and walked out singing."

People living with a neurological disorder commonly experience paralysis, muscle weakness, poor coordination, loss of sensation, seizures, confusion and pain. People living with long-term chronic neurological disability may experience social isolation, traumatic life changes and communication impairment in addition to their physical disability.

"When words fail me, music speaks and it’s made a huge impact on my life; I just feel so privileged for that."

One in four of us experiences some sort of mental health difficulty during our life. For some it is a passing episode of distress, while for others it can be a severe illness that seriously disrupts relationships, home life and career. There may be an obvious cause e.g. a bereavement or abusive situation or a range of contributing factors.

"We had finally found something which would bring happiness for our little girl."

1.5 million people in the UK live with a learning disability and can find it harder than others to learn, understand and communicate. Learning disabilities can also create frustration, anxiety, unhappiness and behavioural difficulties, particularly as children grow up and into adults. There are many syndromes that cause learning disabilities, such as Down’s, Rett, and Fragile X. In this group in particular we work with both children and adults.

Life-threatening illnesses can include immunodeficiency diseases, metabolic disorders and irreversible organ failure. People of all ages are affected.

Medical treatment may be painful and can  involve long periods of hospitalisation and time spent in isolation. Both patients and their families are placed under enormous stress and often have to cope with lack of autonomy and feelings of helplessness and uncertainty.

Few people with a hearing impairment are completely deaf. Even those with little or no hearing are usually able to perceive some rhythmic vibration of sound.

"Nordoff Robbins has brought music back into my mother’s life and it’s through music that we have found a way to remember the good times, have fun and see her in a way that we will always want to remember her."

Elderly people often face many losses: health, mobility, income, activities and social networks.

To live well in old age, people need access to social opportunities, pursuits that engage body and mind, activities that are enjoyable and which allow skills to be maintained and developed.

Cancer, currently estimated to affect one in three people during their life, can affect people at any stage of their lives.

Medical treatment may be painful and can involve long periods of hospitalisation and time spent in isolation. Both patients and their families are placed under enormous stress and often have to cope with lack of autonomy and feelings of helplessness and uncertainty.

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