Longing to belong : deaf and hard of hearing young adults’ social interaction, social relationships, and identity

Abstract: This thesis gives an insight into what it is like to have hearing that you are dependent on being able to read lips and use a hearing aid to be able to communicate with others. Young adults with hearing loss included in the thesis can convey a very central perspective that can have an impact on a change in interventions and treatment in school life, working life and even in their leisure time. The overall aim of the thesis is to study the living conditions and life experiences of young men and women who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH). Despite the increased proportion of people with hearing loss, there still seem to be challenges in the face of inclusive environments for people with hearing loss. This thesis hopes to shed some light on the experiences of people with hearing loss and also to explain the link between hearing loss, social inclusion and social exclusion.The thesis is based on four different sub-studies. In Studies I and IV, a survey study with material collected from the web-based survey Liv och Hälsa Ung (Life and Health of Young People) was used. Pupils attending grades 7 and 9 in compulsory schools and year 2 in upper-secondary schools in all municipalities of the county of Örebro in Sweden. Life and Health of Young People survey examines young people's living conditions, lifestyles and health. The results of Study I showed that people with (DHH) experienced lower levels of well-being than those who had no disability. The results also showed that those who went to special school felt that they had more friends and were more socially included than those who went to mainstream schools. The results of Study IV showed that students with hearing loss felt worse about well-being, somatic disorders and mental health. The results showed that boys had higher well-being, lower mental ill-health and somatic problems than girls. These patterns were the same regardless of whether the adolescents had a disability and regardless of their year in school.In Studies II and III, interviews were conducted with 16 participants (10 male, 6 female), aged 24 to 31 years, and all had severe-to-profound hearing loss. The results of that analysis in Study II showed that they longed to be included, to be accepted, to create an inclusive social environment, to find friends and partners, and to communicate effectively so that they could be understood. In other words, they desired to feel a sense of belonging. Study III showed that most HH people experience communication barriers in higher education, at work and in leisure time. These barriers lead to feelings of loneliness and make it difficult to achieve social inclusion. Another result in study III revealed how important technology is for social interactions and social relationships. The technology has helped reduce several barriers when it comes to communicating with others. Both Assistant Technology (AT) and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) are important tools for maintaining social activities with friends and partners and creating inclusive arenas.

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