Based on parent and teacher report, the prevalence of mental health problems is twice to four times higher in children diagnosed with hearing loss when compared to those peers without a hearing loss.
Interestingly, children who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing (D/hh) and hard-of-hearing (HH) typically do not rate themselves as having significantly higher mental health issues (Overgaard et al, 2021). Quality of life (QoL) studies have yielded fewer concrete results, with conflicting outcomes on how parents, teachers, and DHH children rate their QoL. Mode and level of communication have been suggested as factors affecting mental health and QoL in children who are D/hh as well (Aanondsen et al, 2023).
While the debate between using sign language and spoken language for children who are D/hh continues, we do know that good communications skills, independent of modality, are associated with better mental health (VanOrmer et al, 2019).
The purpose of the current study was to study associations among mental health, QoL, communication, and parent-reported hearing loss in children who are D/hh and who used signal language as their primary mode of communication.
Participants included 106 children who were D/hh with a mean age of 11.8 years and a mean nonverbal IQ of 108. Socio-demographic and hearing-related information was provided by parents. Spoken language, sign language, and overall communicative competence skills were assessed with standardized tests. Mental health and QoL were assessed by validated questionnaires. Data were compared to existing mental health and QoL studies collected on age-matched children with hearing thresholds less than or equal 20 dB HL.
Results revealed that, although children who were D/hh and their parents, on average, rated their mental health as similar to their peers who were not D/hh, about twice as many rated themselves in the clinical range for mental health problems.
Parents of children who were D/hh reported significantly lower QoL than parents of children who were not D/hh, but children who were D/hh did not rate themselves significantly differently from their peers who were not D/hh. Degree of hearing loss was not associated with either mental health or QoL.
The authors highlighted the need for specialized mental health services and validated assessments specifically for children who are D/hh and their parents. Because children who are D/hh do not rate their QoL as lower than that of their peers who are not D/hh, but their parents did, emphasizes the importance of using parent-reported QoL only as supplementary information.
Aanondsen CM, Jozefiak T, Lydersen S, Rimehaug T. (2023) Deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adolescents’ mental health, Quality of Life and communication. BMC Psych 23:297.
Overgaard KR, Oerbeck B, Wagner K, Friis S, Øhre B, Zeiner P. (2021) Youth with hearing loss: emotional and behavioral problems and quality of life. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol 145:110718.
VanOrmer JL, Rossetti KG, Zlomke KR. (2019) The development of behavioral difficulties in hard-of-hearing and deaf youth. Child Fam Behav Ther 41(4):179–200.
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