Support and mentors for hearing loss

Support and mentors for hearing loss
Objective: There were two objectives of this current study. (1) To understand the impacts of hearing loss for late-deafened adults and the experiences of support received both from hearing healthcare providers and peers. (2) To understand the types of support needed during and after a cochlear implant. Design: The study used mixed methods. A survey was posted to three cochlear implant social media groups and participants could self-select to participate in a semi-structured interview by leaving their email address. Study sample: Forty-four late-deafened adults who had also received at least one cochlear implant answered the survey and 16 people were interviewed. Results: A key finding was that most late-deafened adults did not have access to support through the progression of deafness. They often felt alone, making it difficult to maintain their sense of self while reconciling with the hearing changes forced on them. When participants had positive role models who had experienced hearing loss, or mentors who had undergone cochlear implantation, it assisted them in navigating their changing hearing status. Thus, improved connection to peers sustained self-esteem and improved coping strategies. Conclusions: The findings suggest hearing healthcare providers need to introduce a mentoring and support structure for connected care.

This study highlights that those who experience HL have different support needs. Role models and mentors from peers who have experienced HL and CI provide the link that can improve connected care for LDAs. HL is most often slow and progressive (Rapport et al. 2020) and there is no clear point when a person says ‘I am deaf’. It is difficult to know how or when to connect people and provide support to help them cope with their changing hearing status. This current research identifies that those who receive support and remain connected, have a healthier approach to managing the stresses of HL than those who receive no support. When considering a CI, LDAs wanted mentors, someone to guide them through the decision, reassure them and help them understand the outcomes. The HHPs who treat LDAs need to recognise the importance of connecting people with role models or mentors. Nevertheless, as Bennett, Barr, et al. (2021) said most audiologists needed more training to address the LDAs needs outside of audiological care. So, at what point in the progression of deafness do these adults acknowledge they are ‘deaf enough’ to need help? How will they connect with someone who will provide them with information about available support, and where is it available? And who refers them for a CI assessment, and do they provide information about peer group resources? These issues require further investigation.
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