Deaf patients may experience substandard medical care

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When a Houston patient goes to the doctor they assume that their doctor will listen to their concerns and understand how to best treat them. Most of the time this is the case but for certain populations, like the deaf community, good medical care may be hard to find. Many times, deaf and hard of hearing patients do not have adequate translating services available to them which may lead to their doctor’s failure to diagnose their medical condition.
There are many deaf people in our community, and just like hearing people they need good medical care. But what is often the case is that the care they receive can be inadequate. Many deaf patients have a struggle to communicate with their medical providers. Many medical centers do not have adequate interpreter services. The National Association of the Deaf has stated that hospitals, doctor’s offices and medical centers are the “worst in failing to provide effective communications to deaf and hard of hearing individuals”. Many times deaf and hard of hearing people are forced to communicate with their medical provider by reading lips or writing notes back and forth. In addition, those who are deaf and hard of hearing are nearly three times more likely to be in fair or poor health.
Federal guidelines say that writing notes and using family members to interpret are among the least effective ways to communicate with deaf and hard of hearing people. It is recommended that medical centers have interpreters and make use of technology including linking a person to an off-site interpreter via the computer. When there isn’t clear communication in health care settings, there may be an increased risk of misdiagnosis or delayed medical treatment.
All patients deserve the best medical care. When a patient is not diagnosed correctly or a symptom is missed, it can lead to a patient’s worsened condition. If a family believes their loved one was injured by a negligent medical professional, they may want to speak with a legal professional skilled in medical malpractice.
Source:, “Deaf people encounter troubles with medical care“, Claudia Buck, July 11, 2016