Factsheet: Deafness & Mental Health

This factsheet is available in a downloadable PDF here. 

Table of Contents

Mental Health Linked with Deafness
Lothian Deaf Community Mental Health Service (LDCHMS)


The term ‘deaf’ can be used to describe people in the whole range from mild to profound hearing loss.

Deafness can affect people at any stage of life, or be present at birth. Onset of deafness can also be sudden or gradual. Action on Hearing Loss (formally the Royal National Institute for the Deaf) estimates 8.7 million people in the UK have some form of hearing loss, which is approximately one in seven people.

Deaf people have different ways of communicating including British Sign Language (BSL), Signed Supported English (SSE), lip-reading, written communication as well as the use of gestures and pictures. When working with Deaf people it is important to clarify their preferred method of communication.

Mental Health Linked with Deafness

Recent studies looking at the mental health of deaf people in the community have found that 38% of deaf people were experiencing some form of mental distress compared with 5% of the hearing population. However, there is the same incidence of severe and enduring mental health conditions within the Deaf population as within the hearing population.


The average hospital stay of hearing person is 145 days, wheras the average hospital stay of Deaf people is 19.5 years (Timmerman, 1998).

Below are some of the means by which deaf people can experience some form of mental illness:

  • Social exclusion
  • Social isolation
  • Loneliness
  • Difficulties in relationships
  • Lack of education
  • Inability to hold down employment
  • Under employment – 4 times higher
  • Lack of access to information

For Deaf people there is a lack of appropriate mental health services – this can lead to mis-diagnosis and even no diagnosis at all.

Lothian Deaf Community Mental Health Service (LDCHMS)

LDCHMS (part of DeafAction) is the first service of its kind in Scotland working solely with individuals who have varying degrees of hearing loss, from individuals who are BSL users to those who are lip readers as well as working with the Deafblind population. We are a Lothian based community service. We will work in partnership with other organisations to provide an assessment and treatment service to adults aged 18 onwards who have moderate to severe mental health needs and who are likely to respond to time-limited psychological and/or social interventions.

The service consists of:

  • Senior Occupational Therapist
  • Community Psychiatric Nurse

DeafAction, 49 Albany Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3QY.

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