Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Employment and Adults Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Current Status and Experiences of Barriers, Accommodations, and Stress in the Workplace

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Employment and Adults Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Current Status and Experiences of Barriers, Accommodations, and Stress in the Workplace

Article excerpt

For the great majority of adults, work is a major aspect of life, not only necessary for economic survival but also instrumental in meeting myriad social and psychological needs (Blustein, 2008; Hall, 2002). This is, of course, just as true for people who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) as for other adults. There are many DHH individuals who have achieved success in a wide variety of occupations and careers; however, DHH people historically have experienced higher rates of unemployment and underemployment and lower levels of educational attainment than people without hearing loss (Danermark, 2005; Punch, Hyde, & Creed, 2004). The most recent reports from several developed countries suggest that this continues to be the case. For example, analysis of data from the 2010 American Community Survey showed that the percentage of DHH people with college degrees had increased almost four-fold since the 1970s, but that employment and earnings rates were considerably worse than for the general U.S. population and, indeed, had de-clined over the same period (Walter & Dirmyer, 2013). The largest gap was for people with no college degree, and the smallest gap was for graduates with a bachelor's or graduate degree. Nevertheless, the gap in earnings for those with degrees was still around 20%. This suggests an underemployment problem, or DHH people working in jobs that required a lower level of education than they had attained.

Also in the United States, Emmet and Francis (2015) examined associations between hearing loss and employment, education, and income levels using data from a nationally representative study of adults aged 20-69 years who had a pure tone average hearing loss greater than 25dB in both ears. They found that hearing loss was associated with low educational attainment, low income levels, and unemployment. Even after education levels and demographic factors such as age and race were controlled for, it was found that individuals with hearing loss were nearly two times more likely to be unemployed or underemployed than those without hearing loss.

In a series of articles, Rydberg, Coniavitis Gellerstedt, and Danermark reported on a large Swedish study examining the postschool outcomes of 2,144 adults aged 25-64 years who, as children, had attended schools for the deaf and hard of hearing (Rydberg, Coniavitis Gellerstedt, & Danermark, 2010, 2011; Rydberg, Gellerstedt, & Danermark, 2009). This population was compared to a reference population of 100,000 randomly chosen adults within the same age range. Educational levels were lower in the DHH group than in the reference group across all age levels. Only 5% of the DHH population had completed at least 3 years of postsecondary education, compared to 21% of the reference population. However, the difference was not so great for the completion of 2 years of postsecondary education: 8% of the DHH group, compared to 15% of the reference group (Rydberg et al., 2009). The employment level of the DHH adults was 63%, compared to 78% in the reference population (Rydberg et al., 2010). The authors found more underemployment, in that the adults who were DHH more often had a higher level of educational attainment than was required for their occupation. However, it was pointed out that the percentage of DHH people in occupations requiring a high level of educational attainment was much higher in the study than in many earlier studies (Rydberg et al., 2011).

Researchers have also reported deficits in employment and earnings levels for the DHH population in the Netherlands. Stam, Kostense, Festen, and Kramer (2013) examined the relationship between hearing status and work participation using data from the Dutch National Longitudinal Study on Hearing. The study included 1,888 people aged 18-64 years who completed an online hearing test and survey. The hearing test measured the speech reception threshold in noise, and the results divided the participants into three hearing status groups: good, insufficient, and poor. …

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