Not all people with hearing loss are unable to access extra cancer care help

4 August 2022
What was claimed

There are 11 million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing. After a cancer diagnosis, they aren't able to receive the extra help they need.

Our verdict

There are around 11 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss. However, the majority may not have hearing loss to the extent that they would require extra help to access cancer care, or that they would be unable to receive this extra help.

A tweet by Macmillan Cancer Support states: “There are 11 million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing. After a cancer diagnosis, they aren’t able to receive the extra help they need.”

The tweet links to a service founded by a Macmillan volunteer which provides support for deaf people who have cancer, and includes a video which asks “what if you are unable to hear your cancer diagnosis?”

The figure of 11 million has been widely used by hearing loss organisations and the government to refer to the number of people in the UK with some form of hearing loss, though the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) told Full Fact that its figure was 12 million. 

However, this does not mean that this many people in the UK are deaf or otherwise unable to hear to an extent that would restrict them from receiving help without extra assistance.

After we contacted Macmillan about this tweet they acknowledged that it was unclear and confirmed that they would be making a clarification.

Macmillan said: “We are grateful to Full Fact for bringing to our attention that the way the tweet was written could be misinterpreted and will be updating it”.

According to guidance published in 2017 by NHS England and Action on Hearing Loss, approximately 900,000 people have hearing loss categorised as severe or profound.

There is little reliable up-to-date data on the number of people in the UK who are deaf, however in 2010, around 56,000 people were recorded on the deaf register in England.

It’s therefore unlikely to be accurate to say that 11 million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing “aren’t able to receive the extra help they need” following a cancer diagnosis. While some of this number would require assistance when accessing medical services—such as BSL interpreters, which are used by some, though not all, people who are either deaf or have severe hearing loss—the majority would likely not.

This is not to say that people with varying levels of hearing loss do not face difficulties when accessing healthcare services. The RNID told Full Fact that people with varying degrees of hearing loss report feeling uncertain about health advice following GP appointments, missing an appointment after being unable to hear their name being called while in a waiting room or, more recently, experiencing problems communicating as a result of mask-wearing requirements.

Image courtesy of Online Marketing

Update 4 August 2022

This story was updated to make the headline clearer.

We took a stand for good information.

After we contacted Macmillan Cancer Support about this, they updated the tweet

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