June 2011: Deaf people and people from minority ethnic groups who are hard of hearing are at a disadvantage of getting the support they need due to communication and cultural barriers, according to the preliminary findings of a survey by the Hertfordshire Hearing Advisory Service (HHAS).
HHAS is an independent countywide charity providing practical help and advice on all aspects of hearing loss. Last year, the charity was awarded funding by the Lloyds TSB Foundation for England for a two-year research project looking at the service received by people from ethnic minority backgrounds who have hearing loss, and Deaf people, including British Sign Language (BSL) users.
"These people are from a very small and rarely considered minority and are often excluded from mainstream services as they cannot access them, usually due to language, cultural barriers and sometimes due to family or peer pressure and misconceptions," said Manjeet Cross, who is running the research project.
"One of my early findings is that Muslims who have hearing loss often won't attend a Deaf club where there is a bar due to their religious belief. This means that they lose out on interacting with others in the Deaf community, which increases their isolation, as they struggle to meet people who can easily communicate with them," said Manjeet.
Welwyn Garden City resident Manjeet has been running the project for HHAS since October 2010. Manjeet was born deaf and is of Indian descent, so has direct experience of some of the problems that both Deaf people and people from ethnic backgrounds face.
"There are still misconceptions about how Deaf people communicate. Some people don't realise that not all Deaf people write or lip-read English," said Manjeet. "Some Deaf people only communicate in British Sign Language or some other form of non-verbal communication. If you're from an ethnic minority it can be even harder - for example, one of the people involved in this study is a Deaf Polish woman. She does not use any sign language and relies totally on her husband to translate for her by lip-reading the Polish language."
Manjeet's research is particularly focused on the service that BSL and BME users receive from NHS Audiology departments and local authorities. However, she is also looking at services provided by voluntary sector organisations, such as Deaf clubs.
Manjeet is conducting various surveys and first-hand interviews to learn more about people's experience of hearing loss and the service they have received. She has sent an evaluation form to every Audiology Department in Hertfordshire to get patients feedback on various aspects of the service, such as how the receptionist and audiologist communicated with them, and how they booked the appointment.
Manjeet is also conducting a survey of BME service users, for example, finding out what their main barrier is to getting help, and whether they are aware of the assistive equipment that is available to them.
If you are affected by hearing loss and would like to share your experience of accessing services in Hertfordshire, contact Manjeet on email@example.com or 07500 068 810 (text only). The full results of the project will be available in September 2012.