Inadequate access to primary care means that deaf people have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, according to a new study.
The research, conducted at the School for Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol, compared the health of deaf people to that of people without hearing problems. The researchers found higher levels of risk factors for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure among the deaf patients.
Half of the deaf people with heart disease were not being treated appropriately. A third reported high cholesterol levels, but only half as many deaf people were treated for it.
The proportion of deaf patients with type 2 diabetes was similar to people without hearing problems, but they were less likely to have good control over their blood glucose levels.
The study suggests severe communication problems between deaf patients and their doctors, which, according to the charity SignHealth, is caused by a lack of interpreters and next to no health information published available in sign language.
SignHealth said the study “revealed shocking inequality in treatment, which means that some deaf people are at risk of reduced life expectancy.”
Steve Powell, Chief Executive of the charity, said: “This is unintentional neglect, likely to lead to shortened lives. A basic lack of knowledge on the part of health professionals is leaving a vulnerable community with inadequate healthcare.”
The study was published in BMJ Open.

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