Communication Can Ease Mental Health Burden of Deaf

Use of medically skilled interpreters, health care providers who can sign, improves care

FRIDAY, March 16 (HealthDay News) -- There is a high prevalence of mental health problems among deaf individuals, with access to care compounded by communication difficulties, according to a review published in the March 17 issue of The Lancet.

Johannes Fellinger, M.D., from the Hospital of St. John of God in Linz, Austria, and colleagues reviewed the literature to describe individuals with severe-to-profound deafness and their burden of common mental health disorders and barriers to health care.

The researchers report that, although there is a high prevalence of mental health problems among deaf adults, and two times higher rates of emotional and behavioral problems in deaf children, there is no association between the degree of hearing loss and mental health. Among deaf children, constrained language development contributes to behavioral problems and mental health disorders, emphasizing the importance of communication for psychosocial well-being. Published work suggests that deaf people do not have specific psychopathology, but rather suffer from common mental health disorders. Mental distress is worse in individuals reporting communication difficulties. Deaf patients often fear, mistrust, and report frustration with health care settings; enhanced communication via provision of medically skilled interpreters and health care providers who know sign language results in improved compliance with medical recommendations.

"Improved access to health and mental health care can be achieved by provision of specialist services with professionals trained to directly communicate with deaf people and with sign-language interpreters," the authors write.

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