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Deaf awareness, accessibility and communication in the NHS

Award: ENT UK Foundation Grant 2021

Title: Deaf awareness, accessibility and communication in the NHS

Project Lead: Emma Stapleton (ENT) and Bhavisha Parmar (Audiology)

Grant Amount: £750

Status: Interim report



Few healthcare professionals receive training in deaf awareness, and inadequate treatment of hearingloss is estimated to cost the NHS £30million/year. Barriers to communication mean people with hearing loss are less likely to seek healthcare, have poorer access to health information, and consequently experience adverse health outcomes. Creating a culture of deaf awareness, accessibility and communication in the NHS is therefore a much-needed healthcare priority.

The first step in this work is a national survey to collect information from people with hearing loss and their parent/carers, to define the problem. Our survey, designed by a multidisciplinary team of colleagues and patient advocates, has received favourable ethical approval from the University of Cambridge, and already has over 600 responses. We are currently producing a BSL version of the survey, for accessibility to the Deaf community. The results of the survey will be analysed by a team of experts in qualitative and quantitative methods, to identify and prioritise research priorities regarding hearing loss awareness and used to inform the production of educational resources to create a culture of deaf awareness, accessibility, and better communication.

Impact of ENT UK Foundation funding

This long-term impact of this work will be to reduce health inequalities and barriers to communication for people with hearing loss. In the immediate future, the identification and prioritisation of research themes on this topic will lead to the development of our collaborative, inter-disciplinary research team, and applications for funding grants and NIHR portfolio inclusion, to create a body of valuable research on this theme. In turn, this research will inform educational priorities for healthcare staff, to create the culture of communication and accessibility we aim for.

Who is involved?

Core research team: Emma Stapleton (ENT), Laura Turton (Audiology), Bhavisha Parmar (Academic Audiology), Sarah Hughes (Academic SALT), and Zara Musker (STP student and patient advocate).

Current Status

After gaining ethical approval and structuring our survey questions with input from ENT, Audiology, SALT, Charity representatives and Deaf patient advocates, the survey was distributed via online patient groups and mailing lists.

One of the initial feedback responses was that accessibility of the survey was limited for Deaf people who cannot read or write. We responded to this by having our survey questions translated into British Sign Language videos.

We currently have over 500 completed survey responses, and are working on quantitative and qualitative analysis of the data, with two main research questions:

  1. What are the current problems with Deaf awareness in the NHS?
  2. What can we do to improve this?


It is expected that once analysed, these data will be written up as two peer reviewed publications, with authorship including ENT, Audiology, SALT, Charity representatives and Deaf patient advocates.

The next step following this will be to put the recommendations of this work into action, likely involving educational initiatives for Deaf awareness and communication for NHS professionals, as well as a body of ongoing research activity.




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