Perception of COVID-19 Physical Distancing Effectiveness and Contagiousness of Asymptomatic Individuals: Cross-sectional Survey of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adults in the United States

J Med Internet Res. 2021 Feb 25;23(2):e21103. doi: 10.2196/21103.


Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rapid increase in the amount of information about the disease and SARS-CoV-2 on the internet. If the language used in video messages is not clear or understandable to deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) people with a high school degree or less, this can cause confusion and result in information gaps among DHH people during a health emergency.

Objective: The aim of this study is to investigate the relationship between DHH people's perception of the effectiveness of physical distancing and contagiousness of an asymptomatic person.

Methods: This is a cross-sectional survey study on DHH people's perceptions about COVID-19 (N=475). Items pertaining to COVID-19 knowledge were administered to US deaf adults from April 17, 2020, to May 1, 2020, via a bilingual American Sign Language/English online survey platform.

Results: The sample consisted of 475 DHH adults aged 18-88 years old, with 74% (n=352) identifying as White and 54% (n=256) as female. About 88% (n=418) of the sample felt they knew most things or a lot about physical distancing. This figure dropped to 72% (n=342) for the question about the effectiveness of physical distancing in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and 70% (n=333) for the question about the contagiousness of an infected person without symptoms. Education and a knowledge of the effectiveness of physical distancing significantly predicted knowledge about the contagiousness of an asymptomatic individual. Race, gender, and age did not emerge as significant predictors.

Conclusions: This results of this study point to the strong connection between education and coronavirus-related knowledge. Education-related disparities can be remedied by making information fully accessible and easily understood during emergencies and pandemics.

Keywords: COVID-19; asymptomatic individual; coronavirus; deaf; hard of hearing; misinformation; perception; physical distancing; sign language; social media.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / psychology
  • COVID-19 / transmission*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Perception
  • Persons With Hearing Impairments / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physical Distancing*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification
  • United States
  • Young Adult