Preventive attitudes and beliefs of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals

Arch Fam Med. 2000 Jun;9(6):518-25, discussion 526. doi: 10.1001/archfami.9.6.518.


Objective: To investigate the unique health care issues of deaf and hard-of-hearing (D&HH) persons by studying their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors toward preventive medicine.

Design: A self-administered, cross-sectional survey, written in a format comprehensible to persons whose primary language is American Sign Language.

Population: One hundred forty D&HH persons recruited from southeastern Michigan, Chicago, Ill, and Rochester, NY, and 76 hearing subjects from southeastern Michigan and Rochester.

Results: No significant differences existed between D&HH or hearing persons from different states. However, numerous differences existed between D&HH and hearing persons. Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons were less likely to report receiving preventive information from physicians or the media, and more likely to report receiving it from a Deaf club. They rated the following physician-initiated procedures as less important than hearing persons: discussion of alcohol consumption, smoking, depression, and diet, plus screening for hypertension, hearing loss, and cancer. Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons often considered a preventive procedure important if it was reported performed at their last health maintenance examination. They were less likely to report being asked about alcohol consumption and smoking, or to having been examined for hypertension, cancer, height, and weight. They were more likely to report receiving a hearing examination, mammogram, and Papanicolaou smear. Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons were less likely to report believing that smoking less, exercising regularly, maintaining ideal weight, and regular physical examinations improve health. Differences existed within the D&HH cohort depending on the respondent's preferred language (oral English vs American Sign Language); our sample size was too small for a complete assessment of these differences.

Conclusions: Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons appear to have unique knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding preventive medicine, and their attitudes are influenced by their personal experiences with physicians. Preventive practices addressed during health visits may differ between D&HH and hearing patients. Further research is needed to clarify the reasons for these differences, including within D&HH subgroups, and to develop effective mechanisms to improve the health care of all D&HH persons.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Deafness / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Hearing Loss / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physical Examination
  • Preventive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States