Touch – Sensory Loss

By Jacinta Sheedy, 12:38 pm on

Loss of Touch – Affecting lifestyle

The loss or change in touch can affect our lifestyle and day to day living. Often, we find elderly people with sensory loss tend to have problems in communicating, enjoying activities, and staying involved socially. Changes to our senses can unfortunately lead to isolation.

Ageing brings predictable changes to our senses, often making them less sharp, which can in turn disturb the supply of data to our brain.  This means that we are not as easily able to respond to what is going on around us as we once were.

The environment around us gives us important information in relation to our senses. This information can be received in the forms of touch, light, smells, sound, tastes, and touch. The information that our senses receive is then converted into nerve signals that are carried to the brain. There, the signals are turned into expressive sensations.

The realisation of a sensation does require a certain amount of stimulation before you even become aware of it. This minimum level of sensation is called the threshold. Aging increases this threshold requiring the need for more stimulation to be aware of the sensation.

Aging can affect all our five senses, typically hearing and vision are the most commonly affected. Aid’s such as hearing aids, sunglasses or lifestyle changes can help to improve your quality of life.

Touch – What happens to our fifth sense as we age

The sense of touch is a powerful sensation and can make you aware of:

  • Pain
  • Temperature
  • Pressure
  • Vibration
  • Body position.

Our skin, muscles, tendons, joints, and internal organs all help us feel these sensations by the nerve endings that detect these sensations. Our body has a fantastic way of giving information our brain for example: The receptors give the brain information about the position and condition of internal organs. Although we are not aware of this information, it helps to identify change E.g. the pain of appendicitis.

Our brains interpret the type and amount of touch sensation. It also interprets the sensation as:


  • Being comfortably warm


  • Feeling overheated


  • Aware that you are touching something

When we age our senses may be reduced or changed


Decreased blood flow to the nerve endings or to the spinal cord or brain can be the cause to the change or loss in our sense of touch. The spinal cord transmits nerve signals and the brain interprets these signals.

The lack of certain nutrients can also contribute to the loss of our touch sensation. Brain surgery, complications in the brain, confusion, and nerve damage from injury or chronic diseases such as diabetes can also result in the loss of touch sensation.

Symptoms of changed sensation vary based on the cause. With reduced temperature sensitivity, it can be hard for us to tell the variation between cool and cold and hot and warm. This can increase the risk of injury from frostbite, hypothermia, and burns.

Reduced ability to detect vibration, touch, and pressure increases the risk of injuries, including pressure ulcers . It has also been found that people after aged 50, can have reduced sensitivity to pain.

Older people can become more sensitive to light touches because their skin is thinner.


People tend to develop problems with walking due to the reduced ability to perceive if your foot has made connection the floor. This can pose a fall’s risk, an unfortunate common problem in elderly people.

If you have noticed changes about yourself or a loved one in relation to touch, pain, or problems standing or walking, talk with GP.

There may be ways to manage the symptoms.

The following measures can help you stay safe:

  • Lower the water heater temperature to no higher than 49°C to avoid burns.
  • Check the thermometer to decide how to dress, rather than waiting until you feel overheated or chilled.
  • Perform daily skin checks, especially your feet, for injuries. If you find an injury, treat it. DO NOT assume the injury is not serious because the area is not painful.


To find out more on how we can help enrich your loved ones life, please call 07 3314 2575 or send an online request for more information.  For more information on what happens when we loose our senses have a read on our blog.

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