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Mental Health and Deafness

Patricia De La Garza

Blog Managing Intern

This is a research piece; If you do not enjoy reading research, feel free to read our previous blog posts.

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 Hearing loss is associated with: embarrassment, fatigue, irritability, tension and stress, anger, avoidance of social activities, withdrawal from social situations, depression, negativism, danger to personal safety, rejection by others, reduced general health, loneliness, social isolation, less alertness to the environment, impaired memory, less adaptability to learning new tasks, paranoia, reduced coping skills, and reduced overall psychological health (Kochkin, 2000). Deaf children are about 1.5-2 times more susceptible to mental health problems than hearing children. Hindley (2005) stated that about 15-20% of all deaf children have significant health problems as well as emotional and behavioral problems.  A contributor to emotional and behavioral problems is lack of communication. Due to communication barriers and language developmental delays, deaf children may not be able to express their feelings to anyone. They may not know how describe their feelings or even what it is they are feeling.  They may have bad feelings, such as feeling disappointed in themselves and their lives, feeling ugly, or feeling like a failure, but they do not know that these bad feelings come together and have a name. Because they do not know how to express themselves, verbally, emotionally, or both, the child may become aggressive, misbehave, become grouchy, irritable, and upset. Parents may have difficulty controlling their Deaf child’s behaviors and emotional upsets. (Hindley, 2005). Communication within the home is vital. If there are communication issues, then the child will feel isolated from the family. Due to the feelings of isolation and lack of communication within the home, symptoms of depression and anxiety will develop. If the child is unable to communicate within the home environment, social development will be delayed as well. Deaf children from these environments will likely be reluctant to initiate conversations with others which will contribute further to feelings of isolation. Because the child is having trouble initiating conversations with others, or they think they are misunderstood by other individuals, they will have difficulty making friends and will stay away from social activities. People need to communicate with others in order to establish their self-concept and identity. Without these two major factors, the Deaf children will go through life not knowing who they are. They will not be able to identify with anybody around them. They will feel like they are different from everyone else and that nobody wants to associate with them; this could lead to chronic depression (Kvam, Loeb, & Tambs, 2006). Effective communication within the family can help prevent many of these problems especially depression, anxiety, and social isolation. Effective communication will allow a Deaf child to establish a self-identity and self-concept. They will be capable of initiating conversations with others and will flourish in academic environments just as hearing children do. With effective communication, proper intervention and treatment Deaf children will face limited barriers and will be able to reach their full potential in different aspects of their lives.

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This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.

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