Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name





Donald Vogel

Committee Members

Brett Martin

Subject Categories

Communication Sciences and Disorders | Speech and Hearing Science | Speech Pathology and Audiology


health literacy, deafness, hearing loss, health disparity, healthcare accessibility


Objective: This systematic review aims to evaluate whether deafness has a significant effect on one’s health literacy skills, and, if there is a difference between health literacy of a normal hearing individual compared to that of a Deaf individual. Disparities in health literacy unique to the Deaf experience are identified.

Methods: A comprehensive search the utilizing various peer-reviewed databases was conducted via the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Graduate Center Library to identify relevant studies published after 2009. Inclusion criteria incorporated quantified studies which commented on the health literacy of d/Deaf communities in the U.S. published from 2009 to present day.

Results: Although additional studies focusing on the health literacy of the d/Deaf population are needed, the 9 studies discussed within the scope of this systematic review were able to adequately demonstrate the poor health literacy levels of d/Deaf Americans. The studies that included normal hearing and d/Deaf participants illustrated the presence of poorer health literacy skills of the d/Deaf population, in relation to the normal hearing population.

Discussion: Deaf individuals do not have the exposure to incidental learning opportunities that normal hearing individuals take for granted, such as family history or caregiving, thus leading to the prevalence of inadequate health literacy among them. Without access to information such as familial v histories, medical processes and procedures, Deaf individuals are unable to equip themselves to face all types of health conditions. As the results demonstrated, d/Deaf participants consistently have poorer health literacy in comparison to their normal hearing counterparts. Therefore, the d/Deaf population faces an even poorer position in terms of health literacy. Additionally, communication barriers between the d/Deaf and medical professionals leave this demographic unsatisfied with the level of care experienced, thus leading them to avoid healthcare settings. Improper access to healthcare puts all individuals at risk for untreated conditions, reduced quality of life, and increased risk of fatalities. Health outcomes are likely to be worse in d/Deaf people compared to those who are normal hearing because of imbalances in access to health care, health info, education, and economic resources.

Conclusion: Closing the gap in the health literacy status of d/Deaf Americans is a goal that needs to be addressed within the public health sphere. Ignoring this problem serves to exacerbate existing healthcare disparities. Adverse health outcomes can best be prevented when more research is performed and initiatives are taken to give support to the d/Deaf, young, and elderly alike