Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name





Brett Martin

Subject Categories

Speech Pathology and Audiology



The purpose of this study was to identify the barriers to optimal audiological care for members of the Deaf community from the perspectives of Deaf individuals compared to audiologists. The goal is to help bridge the clinical communication barriers that lie between audiologists and the Deaf community by identifying the perceived gaps in care specifically and by gathering suggestions for improvement. A survey was administered to both audiologists and members of the Deaf community, making the present study unique and essential in that responses from both communities are compared and suggestions for bridging the gap are made.


There were two groups of participants: currently practicing clinical audiologists and adult members of the Deaf community. After the initial inclusion/exclusion criteria, 98 audiologists and 44 members of the Deaf community participated. All participants were recruited online through social media advertisements of the study. Two separate questionnaires (one for each group) were created with the purpose of gathering information on the topic. Both surveys were divided into three main sections: demographics with inclusion/exclusion questions, perceived barriers to care, and suggestions for bridging the gaps in care.


Both groups surveyed identified communication a significant barrier to optimal audiologic care for the Deaf community. There were differences between the groups in the perceived need for and acceptance of audiologic care and how well the individual’s stated goals and needs for care are taken into consideration. Most of the Deaf community members are willing to accept audiological care but did not always feel their audiologist shows respect for the Deaf community.

Suggestions for reducing the barriers to optimal care from both groups included suggestions for improving communication, using a client-centered rather than a medical model approach to care, and eliminating audist/ableist biases.

It should be noted that most audiologists reported that it would be helpful to know some essential signs, while several noted that knowing a few singular signs is not sufficient. Deaf participants agreed that knowledge of essential signs would provide ease of communication and demonstrate respect for Deaf culture but would not eliminate the need for interpreter.

Both groups agreed that communication improvements can reduce barriers to optimal care.


The goal of this study was accomplished based on data from both surveys. The groups agreed that communication is a significant barrier that stands in the way of optimal audiological care for these patients and that communication improvements are the primary key to aiding in breaking down the barriers. Emphasis should be placed on making communication interactions with these patients as comfortable as possible. While much of this study involved both the groups pointing out areas of improvement for the other, the results are positive and potentially achievable. These results have implications for audiology training programs and emphasize the importance of including education on Deaf culture as well as incorporating training in American Sign Language, either as a formal part of the program or via outside resources.