The impact of hearing impairment on the couple, the family and the social network
This qualitative study investigates the challenges and the problems in marriage when one partner has a hearing impairment and the other hears normally. Such knowledge is intended to help clinicians and researchers to have a more accurate picture of the lives of hearing impaired people in that it incorporates both positive and negative dimensions; and helps to lessen the likelihood that they will project their own negative fantasies on to their patients, clients and respondents. A method of investigation devised by Elizabeth Bott (1957) using repeated intensive interviewing, was adopted with certain adaptations. Using her approach, with other theoretical material, has produced an ethnographic study which illuminates the interaction between peoples' psychosocial experiences and the medical and audiological nature of hearing impairment. Eleven couples were interviewed ten times and five single people were interviewed five times. In the analysis of the findings, five major strands emerged: intimate family relationships, social support networks, communication strategies, the nature of care and rehabilitation, and recommendations for social policy. From this work particular psychosocial insights emerged. The research suggests that although acquired hearing loss is a widespread problem in our society due to the growth in the numbers of elderly people in the population compounded by Noise Induced Hearing Loss, present provision is far from adequate. The provision developed in 1978 failed to address the central fact that hearing loss is not only about a physical process of not hearing, but strikes at the heart of communication, specifically that which takes place within the family and social network. Also services for the hearing impaired have ignored themulti-faceted nature of hearing loss and the need for a complementary holistic approach to encourage rehabilitation and adjustment.