Does when you become deaf affect the way that you perceive yourself and even affect the treatment that you receive for your hearing loss? Research indicates that it does. If you have a family member who has significant hearing loss or deafness, there are some cultural aspects that you may need to discuss with your audiologist, your family, and the patient in order for the patient to get a better quality of life.
Patients who lose their hearing as adults see themselves as separate from the deaf community.
The odds of someone becoming deaf increases with age. While 2–3 children out of every 1,000 born in the U.S. are born with a detectable hearing loss, only 2 percent of adults aged 45–54 have hearing loss that's disabling. By the time someone reaches 75, their odds of being disabled due to hearing loss rises to 50 percent.
The group of people who are born with disabling hearing loss and the group who develop it over time due to aging or other health issues often divide themselves into two distinct groups. The former group usually learns American Sign Language (ASL) early on, giving them a bilingual ability to communicate. They also tend to form an identity around being deaf that helps provide them with a sense of community.
By comparison, those who become deaf as they age generally don't feel like they are part of a unique community and aren't likely to pick up ASL. They're also less likely to identify as part of the deaf community, and this means they're also isolating themselves from the people who can understand some of the daily challenges that they face. In addition, studies have shown that the group suffering from acquired deafness generally aren't conditioned to assert their rights to accommodations, and this can further isolate them in the general world.
Adult-onset deafness can trigger an identity crisis and depression.
Patients with adult-onset deafness can experience a loss of their sense of personal identity. That can delay acceptance of their hearing loss as a real problem by as much as 5–7 years. During that time, patients can end up suffering from communication problems that make them feel bored, ashamed, depressed, and worried that they'll be perceived as incompetent by others. They can also develop feelings of loneliness and isolation even when among family. Depression and withdrawal aren't uncommon.
An audiologist can help adult-onset victims of deafness adapt and cope.
If you recognize that a relative or other loved one is showing signs of adult-onset deafness, early intervention and treatment can help minimize the negative social and psychological symptoms that go along with the deafness. An early intervention with an audiologist can help convince the hearing-loss victim to get early treatment (instead of waiting those additional 5–7 years, during which a lot of social and psychological damage can be done).
While not all adult-onset deafness is fixable with surgery or hearing aids, many victims of hearing loss can be treated successfully, and symptoms can be minimized. Depending on the cause, the progression of the disorder can also be slowed. Your audiologist may also be able to help suggest ways that the patient can adapt to his or her condition, including making use of community support groups and counseling. For more information, talk to an audiologist near you, such as one at Hearing Health Clinic, today.