Being part of the hearing impaired community is challenging as you are faced with a lot of challenges like prejudice and stigma. Not only that; but those who are deaf also suffer from mental health concerns. Mental illnesses like depression, schizophrenia, substance abuse, and anxiety are some of the disorders that they are facing every day.
“They certainly understand that they’re outsiders in the hearing world, and no matter how good their skills at speaking and lip reading, they may never completely fit in,” writes David Ludden Ph.D.
People who are hearing impaired also find it difficult to communicate with their care providers as sometimes, lip reading isn’t enough. Communication gap is the issue, and there are only a few providers who are equipped with sign language. How can they be fully understood when they cannot express themselves vocally, or the people they are trying to communicate with have limited skills? Even those with a voice find it hard to process their emotions. What more with those who are hearing impaired?
“Prior to diagnosis and learning that their child may be deaf, parents often have difficulty understanding the needs of their baby,” writes Robert T Muller Ph.D.
The Hearing Impaired Community And Their Issues
About 15-26% of the population will experience hearing loss but to be deaf even before learning the spoken language is such a challenge. Nearly seven in 10,000 people are part of this population and their only way to communicate is sign language.
In the world today, wherein the hearing is a valuable sense, struggling to fit in and functioning well along with stress and prejudice may lead to developing mental health issues like depression or substance abuse. There are also hearing impaired students who also suffer from developmental delays and ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder, among others. Deaf children who have difficulty in communicating with their families can also be affected by mental health issues. What’s worse is that these children are also more likely to be bullied in school and become a victim of sexual assault.
“Deaf and hard-of-hearing populations experience abuse about one and a half times more frequently than those without hearing difficulties,” writes Mellissa Withers, Ph.D., M.H.S.
Communication Needed, But Scarce
People who are hearing impaired find it difficult to obtain mental health services. This is a fact. In a small study with 54 respondents, more than half weren’t able to see and access the services that they needed.
There are also times when deaf people with mood disorders are under-diagnosed due to the following:
- Lack of experienced sign language interpreters
- Translation challenges between spoken and sign language
- Differentiation in how deaf people display their feelings to a mental health professional
You can’t also substitute reading and writing for spoken language. Hearing loss can significantly affect the vocabulary. Lip reading isn’t accurate either with only 26-40% of adults being able to lip read.
How To Access Mental Health Services
Deaf people who participated in the studies said that they prefer deaf professionals to give them mental health services. The problem is that there are not many hearing impaired specialists out there to cater to the community.
Differences That Must Be Noted
Mental health professionals should also know how to differentiate when a deaf person shows their feelings as compared to those who are not hearing impaired. For people who can hear, pounding on the floor may seem like an act of aggression, but for deaf people, this is a standard way to get attention. Those who are hearing impaired also rely on showing strong expressions of feelings as these small details indicate their change of mood. This must be noted.
What Is The Remedy For The Hearing Impaired With Mental Health Issues?
A study concluded that people who cannot hear have a fear of being wrongly committed even though they were asking for directions or another situation since there are communication barriers. The participants in the study stated that there are times when they were misdiagnosed. With that, the best people to assist those who are deaf with mental health issues must also be hearing impaired, as well. The National Association of the Deaf has more information on this matter. As such, professionals who have little to no experience with working on people who are hearing impaired should be careful with their diagnosis.