Psychological implications of acquired deafness for adults of employment age

Thomas, Alan J. (1980) Psychological implications of acquired deafness for adults of employment age. Doctoral thesis, Polytechnic of North London.


Acquired deafness is relatively common but has been little researched and has received scant attention from writers on disability. A review of personal experiences, professional observations and the few empirical studies which have been reported, provide enough evidence for the hypothesis that acquired hearing loss may have serious consequences for psychological adjustment. This hypothesis was tested on a sample of 211 adults obtained from 3 NHS hearing aid clinics in the Greater London Area. All respondents had owned a hearing aid for a minimum of one year. At the interview session pure tone audiometry and a test of speech discrimination was carried out; a number of other audio-logical variables were also quantified. An inventory designed to identify the psychologically disturbed, with norms for the general and psychiatric populations, was administered. A number of discrete questions on general wellbeing, health, employment, social and family life were asked, each one controlled on the general population. Finally, a scale designed to measure suspiciousness was included.

Thirty nine (19%) respondents were identified as psychologically disturbed, compared with 5% found in the general population. Those who had a severe hearing loss coupled with poor speech discrimination ability form a small subsample of 23, of whom 11 were psychologically disturbed. Conclusions pertaining to psychological disturbance were supported by an analysis of discrete questions in the interview schedule, firstly by controlling them on the general population, and secondly by examining their relationship to psychological disturbance. There was no evidence to support the commonly held belief that bearing loss is associated with suspiciousness.

Studies concerning the relationship between other handicaps and psychological disturbance are reviewed briefly. When the findings from these studies are used as a yardstick it is concluded that if the criterion of psychological disturbance is employed then acquired deafness is indeed a serious handicap.

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