Psychological Problems Of The Deaf Community

The deaf community is one of the largely understated groups when it comes to oppression. Hearing is something that most people take for granted, not giving a second thought to what it would be like to live without it. Being that the majority of the general public are ignorant to their existence the oppression present in deaf communities isn’t given the same attention as other causes. This case of oppression is common in that the lack of exposure to deaf culture makes those who can hear more prone to ill-treating them. Their heritage is littered with instances of prejudice and discrimination which can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. The fact that this fight and struggle to overcome this oppression is so understated in today’s society is a travesty.


The Deaf community as a whole were not thought of as a group that was created specifically in one time or place, thus it took a while before they could gain legitimacy as a collective. Dating as far back as the 1970s those who were deaf were left without the means needed to be on equal footing able bodied people. According to Van (1993) “ It was though the world in which deaf people grew up, married, worked, procreated, and educated their children was somehow unrelated to the larger world inhabited by the people who hear.” Even though there was forward thinkers amongst Europeans, colonists in the New World were still having trouble coming to terms with the idea of deaf children gaining a formal education. Embarking on the task of trying to teach was perceived by some members of the colonies to be witchcraft or sorcery. Others saw the learning of sign language as preventing deaf individuals from enhancing their ability to learn and practice speech.

However, by the time it had reached the turn of the nineteenth century the drive to teach deaf children in the United States had grown tremendously. The two key moments of empowerment and educational progress took place during this time. There was a desire among the general public to make deaf people productive members of society. In the U.S. deaf communities began to form associations at local and state levels. In the twentieth century the majority of the hearing impaired were preoccupied with sustaining a place in the industrial age. Job opportunities and access to employment would have been scarce if not for various that painted deaf people as hard workers. These campaigns were led by many of the previously established organizations for the deaf. Later on as World War II began the deaf community saw a spike in job opportunities as the majority of hearing men were sent to the front lines.

The practical importance of sign language became widespread knowledge not long after, led by the research of Dr. William Stokoe. The compromise that came about at the time was deaf children learning to speak and sign simultaneously. ASL become more and more acceptable as foreign language credits in universities and colleges. Fast forward to present day and deaf communities have thrived so much so that they are politically organized with organizations all over the globe. There has been far more use of cochlear implants and enhancement devices for the hearing impaired. The progressive climate of the world led to research investigating genetic causes of hearing impairment as well as preventative methods during pregnancy. The jaded point of view hearing individuals have toward deafness has worked in the communities favor as a motivational tool to make strides in deaf research. Since the past of the deaf community has been one of strife and survival, it is to be expected that the long and taxing journey up til this point would have severe psychological drawbacks.

Psychological Problems

The deaf community has constant battles with discrimination, prejudice, and unjust treatment. As a result studies have shown that deaf individuals are affected by mental health issues at twice the rate of the general public. These illnesses are only applied by the fact that deaf people have issues conversing with care providers and tools used to diagnose usually depend on information that not a lot of deaf commonly known. Special facilities that provide the necessary services to deaf people are few and far between in the United States. Various states do not offer the services for people who are deaf or do not have the informational resources at the ready in a database. Providing services to patients who are deaf calls for physicians to be well informed of deaf culture and sign language.

It is much easier for those who are deaf to fall into depression than others because of their inherent separation from a large majority of the world. If they cannot find kinship amongst others in the deaf community than the isolation they feel is only amplified. Depression can be caused by feelings of loneliness, making deaf people more prone to falling into these textbook traps.

According to Marit (2006) “those who lost their hearing at 3 years of age or more may experience a more reduced quality of life than those who have had hearing loss since the early months of life. They suggest that the former group may feel a sorrow that follows the loss of hearing the spoken language.” Considering many aspects of depression are rooted in feelings of loneliness one could argue that people who are members of marginalized groups are more susceptible to mental illnesses. Being at such a disadvantage would not be as detrimental to them if not for the lack of medical support provided to them. In the past there were various psychological myths about deaf people. One of which being that deaf people could not suffer from things like depression, seeing as they did not have a superego that reached the level of obsession necessary.

Coping Strategies

Dealing with depression takes endless amounts of energy, perseverance, and hope which can make overcoming it difficult. However, it is not impossible when given the right treatments or coping strategies. Getting aid from those around someone plays a large role in overcoming mental hangups. Specifically the deaf community has such a wide and far reaching support system in place for those that feel other than, it is important to utilize. Sharing and opening up to others is a big factor when it comes to overcoming depression.


Deaf patients report fear, mistrust, and frustration in health-care settings. They appreciate efforts from care providers to improve communication (panel 1), provision of medically skilled interpreter services, and especially providers who know sign language. Enhanced communication with deaf patients results in improved patient compliance with medical recommendation. Possible limitations in access to health information for members of the Deaf community should be taken into account. About a third of highly educated deaf adults scored only at the level of schoolchildren aged 14-15 years for health literacy. Effective working relationships with signing professionals or with interpreters greatly enhance medical practice with deaf people. Deaf patients with access to interpreters use more preventive services and receive more psychiatric and substance-misuse counseling than do deaf patients who rely on note-writing with physicians.

Standard tests and mental health measures designed for and the normal range established for hearing people are often invalid when used with deaf individuals. Several reports of adaptations and sign-language translations of standard mental health screening and research instruments, such as the General Health Questionnaire, show acceptable validity and reliability. Others have developed new measures directly in sign language, such as tests of verbal cognitive functions on the basis of samples from the deaf population.

09 March 2021
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