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Hearing management

Updated 04 December 2017

Deaf people have more mental health problems

Deaf people are about twice as likely to have mental health problems as people in the general population, according to a new review of evidence.

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Deaf people are about twice as likely to have mental health problems as people in the general population, according to a new review of evidence.

In addition, deaf people have greater difficulty getting mental health care and the quality of care tends to be lower, according to the review appearing online in The Lancet.

The researchers also found that deaf children who cannot make themselves understood within their family are four times more likely to have mental health disorders and more likely to suffer mistreatment at school than deaf children who can communicate with their family members, according to a journal news release.

One study found that deaf boys were three times more likely and deaf girls twice as likely to report sexual abuse, compared to children who could hear.

The review found that deaf patients report fear, mistrust and frustration in health care services. Along with communication problems when seeing health professionals, deaf patients have difficulty accessing health information.

Deaf people need care too

"Improved access to health and mental health care can be achieved by specialist services with professionals trained to directly communicate with deaf people and with sign-language interpreters," said Dr. Johannes Fellinger, from the Health Centre for the Deaf at the Hospital of St. John of God in Linz, Austria, and colleagues.

About seven per 10,000 people worldwide are severely or profoundly deaf, with onset of deafness before language development, according to the release. US research has shown that about 25% of deaf students have other disabilities, including learning difficulties, developmental delay, visual impairment and autism.

"Patients from the deaf community have the same need for good communication and safe care as everyone else," said British researchers Dr. Andrew Alexander, from the Royal United Hospital in Bath; Dr. Paddy Ladd, from the Centre for Deaf Studies at the University of Bristol; and Steve Powell, from SignHealth, in Beaconsfield, in an accompanying commentary.

"Clinicians have a responsibility to recognise that communication is a two-way process, and that they need assistance to communicate with this group of patients," they said. "So what should you do when you meet your next patient from the deaf community? Putting yourself in their shoes and asking them how best to communicate would be a good start."

Read more:
Hearing in children


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Hearing Expert

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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