Hearing Differently: The Impact of Hearing Impairment on Family Life

Hearing Differently: The Impact of Hearing Impairment on Family Life

RATING:  (3 of 5 ears)
AUTHOR: Ruth A. Morgan-Jones
PUBLISHER: Whurr Publishers c/o Taylor & Francis Publishers
ISBN: 1-86156-177-6
COST: $34.95

REVIEWER: Donna S. Wayner, Ph.D., Hear Again, Inc., 37 Grandview Drive, Latham, New York 12110

SYNOPSIS: This text explores the impact of hearing impairment on family life; a topic of significant importance. It reports the results of an investigation of 150 in-depth interviews with people who are hearing impaired as well as their significant others and, if appropriate, their children. It provides information about the various ways conflict is managed in each relationship as well as decision making, household chore sharing, communication and perceptions of hearing impairment.

Based on studies for the author's doctoral dissertation, the material included reflects the need for treating the whole family if one member of the family has a hearing loss. It integrates ideas from the fields of family therapy, marital therapy, counseling, family sociology, social policy, psychology, social psychology, linguistics, disability and deafness.

REVIEW: The book entitled: "Hearing Differently: The Impact of Hearing Impairment on Family Life" attempts to review some of the innumerable and complex variables which impact family life when one of the members of the family has a hearing loss. Emerging from the author's effort to study the impact of hearing impairment on family life, the book notes five areas of consideration: 1) Intimate family relationships, 2) social support networks, 3) communication strategies, 4) the nature of care and 5) recommendations for social policy.

Methods used for studying the complexity of human relationships are presented reflecting the sociological perspective and the view of family and marital therapists. A literature review connected with mental health issues, personal identity, social networks, group identity, stages of bereavement, stress and stigma is provided in the book.

The text has as its basic premise that hearing impairment disrupts relationships because the ability to hear is so central to the relational process. From the psychosocial dimension, hearing impairment is multi-faceted and all encompassing since it strikes at the heart of the social relationship in both the private and public spheres. Because people are considered part of an overall systems context, an individual with hearing impairment is not considered simply to be an individual with a personal problem, but part of a whole. The communication problem resulting from the hearing loss belongs not only to the individual, but to the family, social networks and to the whole of society.

Reported in the text are the various experiences of 11 married couples and 5 single people. A summary of experiences follows:

  • Loss of spontaneity was the most frequent complaint from couples in the study.
  • There was a negative impact on the children of people who had a hearing loss making them feel worried and resentful.
  • There is need for those who work as rehabilitators of those with hearing impairment that they have a grasp of a family life cycle approach.
  • If relationships with kin were not satisfactory before a hearing loss occurred, they remained so afterwards. There were no examples of hearing loss helping to cement formerly uncertain relationships.
  • Hearing loss does not obstruct intimacy provided both partners have affection and regard for each other's feelings and can respond to each others needs.
  • Because there is no one solution, a multi-discipline, holistic approach must be adopted because of the multi-faceted nature of hearing impairment.

The book includes a description of the backgrounds of the participating individuals (11 couples and 5 single people) in the Appendices. This description categorizes the participants using the family life stages, which are:

Stage I: Young couple with out children
Stage II: Family with pre-school children (age 0–5)
Stage III: Family with school children (age 6–12)
Stage IV: Family with adolescents
Stage V: Young adult launching
Stage VI: The middle years: a 4 generational family
Stage VII: Retirement and aging (male over 65)

An extensive Bibliography is also included in the text.

CRITIQUE: The major strength of this book is the topic. Looking at the effects of hearing loss on interpersonal relationships is critical to enhancing the understanding of all who are involved with issues related to hearing loss. Attempting to delineate the multiple variables which are impacted in relationships when one of the participants has a hearing loss is extremely complex.

The author has done an admirable job of attempting to define and outline the issues to be considered. At times, however, the material is presented in a less than orderly fashion. In addition, in some sections, there is more detail included than may be necessary to transmit the information.

The intended audience for this book includes sociologists, psychologists, audiologists, ear nose and throat and family practice physicians.