Academic journal article International Social Science Review

Individuals with Hearing Loss in Arkansas and Mental Health Service: Evaluating Accessibility

Academic journal article International Social Science Review

Individuals with Hearing Loss in Arkansas and Mental Health Service: Evaluating Accessibility

Article excerpt


The combination of mental health issues and hearing loss creates a unique relationship that requires specialized training for the professionals working with deaf or hard of hearing individuals in a clinical setting. A review of the literature reveals various aspects of the unique dynamics created by hearing loss and mental health concerns with respect to communication in a clinical setting as well as in a rural state. However, there is limited literature respective to the state of Arkansas. The survey conducted for this article assessed the accessibility to mental health services in the state of Arkansas as perceived by deaf and hard of hearing individuals. It revealed the need for qualified professionals to provide services geared towards deaf culture. Interviews provided insight to experiences in the context of mental health services and accessibility. The survey also showed strong demand for a centrally located office to provide services to the deaf and hard of hearing community. The aim of this research is to draw the attention of mental health professionals and other stakeholders in Arkansas to the additional element of hearing loss. The impetus for not only mental health services tailored for issues arising out of an individual's hearing loss, but also the need for mental health providers to make available clinicians who have a profound understanding of the language and the culture of the deaf community.

Degrees and Prevalence of Hearing Loss

The deaf population is a subpopulation that exists within the hearing population that includes individuals who have a hearing loss within a spectrum that varies from mild hearing loss to total hearing loss. It is important to differentiate lower case "d" deaf and uppercase "D" Deaf. Steven Barnett explains that Deaf, as in Deaf Community refers to the subculture in which members are self-selected, whereas deaf, as in deaf population, refers to individuals who have a medically diagnosed hearing loss. (1) Hearing loss, hard of hearing, and deafness are synonymous as they refer to an individual who has impairment to his or her ability to process the environment around them auditorily. The level of correction needed to bring the auditory input to a detectable range by the individual determines the degree of hearing loss. This is measured in decibels of hearing loss (dB HL). Clark provided a breakdown in the classifications of hearing loss. The classifications on a spectrum of hearing loss in terms of dB HL are as follows: 16 to 25 as slight, 26 to 40 as mild, 41 to 55 as moderate, 56 to 70 as moderately severe, 71 to 90 as severe, and anything over 91 as profound. (2)

Ross E. Mitchell and his co-authors provided a brief description of the estimates regarding the total number of deaf people in America using information from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the Survey of Income and Program Participations (SIPP). They reported approximately 2 to 4 per 1000 of the total population has profound hearing loss, 9 to 22 severely hearing impaired, and 37 to 140 with hearing loss in general. (3) According to the Census Bureau, in 2010 there were 2,915,918 people living in Arkansas at the time of the census report. (4) Given the population data of Arkansas residents reported in the census and the approximation of the ratio of the population with a hearing loss, it would be logical to assume there are roughly estimated to be anywhere from 583 to 11,664 individuals with profound hearing loss living in Arkansas, 26,243 to 64,150 severely hearing impaired, and 107,888 to 408,229 with hearing loss in general.

Hearing Loss and Mental Health Issues

Margaret Du Feu and Kenneth Fergusson conducted a study in 2003 to better understand the relationship between hearing loss and mental health. What Du Feu and Fergusson found was the stigma attached to hearing loss had social implications. Alongside the loss [or lack of] sensory ability, the social implications had an equal impact on the deaf population's mental health. …

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