I did not die, I just can't hear: A grounded theory study of acquired deafness
There is a paucity of information concerning the adjustment to late, or post-lingual, deafness. What literature is available is bleak, comparing the process of becoming deafened with the stages of death and dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1969). Theories of disability do not fully lend themselves to acquired deafness. As a late-deafened adult myself, I found little information available offering a positive outlook on life after becoming deaf.
The purpose of this study was to examine the stories of those who have lived through acquired deafness in the detail that is afforded through grounded theory methodology. The stories of 24 late-deafened adults were obtained via email surveys and interviews and examined for recurrent themes. Data were compared and contrasted in an attempt to find patterns and discover a theory of adjustment to deafness, grounded in the participants lived experiences.
Participants were grouped into three categories, along a continuum of adjustment, ranging from “Struggling” with their deafness, to “Resigned” to deafness, to “Accepting.” Reflection and learning were found to be keys to the adjustment process. Those in the “Accepting” group experienced double-loop learning—an internalized learning stemming from a change in the individual's belief system. They also used, to some extent, sign language, had deaf friends and strong family support. This group formed a secondary reality, giving up their hearing selves and internalizing deaf ways. Those who were “Struggling” were on Social Security Disability insurance with one exception, had little family support, did not have deaf friends and were not prone to utilize true reflection.
The final grounded theory of adjustment to deafness describes how all began their journey in similar ways, with medical interventions, hearing aids, and strong emotional reactions. After these similarities, individual differences such as cognitive abilities and personalities played an important factor in the adjustment process. However, as communication breakdowns occurred, all experienced the symptoms and physicality of deafness and resultant changes in their reality. The ability to reflect on deafness, to identify new needs, to internalize a new theory-in-use and to form a new reality were found to be essential to adjustment. Support services received were critical to adjustment in that service providers were often unfamiliar with the needs of deafened clients. Finally, the element of time was identified as being crucial to the adjustment process.
0747: Vocational education
0525: Educational psychology