We have always assumed that Deaf people have worse health compared to hearing people. Until now, this has never been proven.
In 2014, after five years of work, the Deaf Health charity SignHealth shared the results of a ground-breaking study, ‘Sick Of It’.
This is the first large-scale investigation into the health of Deaf people and how it compares to the hearing population. The report reveals disturbing differences, and uncovers the causes.
It shows that we couldn’t make it harder for a Deaf person to book a healthcare appointment if we tried. And then we insist on speaking a language they have never heard, and struggle to understand.
Despite living in a world obsessed with the internet, smartphones and connectivity, 45% of Deaf sign language users can only make an appointment by walking into their doctor’s surgery, and when they get there, having to communicate with staff that cannot sign.
70% of Deaf people we surveyed wanted to contact their GP recently but hadn’t been able to. They experienced huge problems booking an interpreter, being called from the waiting room, the consultation, and getting test results. Most health professionals seemed to be completely unaware that these barriers existed.
The Equality Act means that BSL/English interpreters should usually be provided if that’s the way the Deaf patient would like to communicate. Our research shows that 8 in 10 Deaf people want to communicate using BSL, but only 3 in 10 are given the choice.
That means medical professionals are failing to understand their patients, and that their patients do not understand them. That results in poor diagnoses and poor treatment.
You would expect Audiology and Ear, Nose & Throat departments to be far more aware of Deaf people’s communication needs, because of the high number of Deaf people they treat. Shockingly, it’s not the case.
Deaf awareness training and rapid movement towards online and SMS text bookings are among our Prescriptions For Change at the end of our Sick Of It report.
Only 3% of Deaf people want to communicate with their doctor using English, yet 40% are forced to do it.
Deaf people are being failed by the health service, and it has gone on too long.