Predictors of Psychosocial Outcomes in Hard of Hearing Preschool Children

Laugen, N. et al. J. Deaf Stud. Deaf Educ. (2016) 

N0023341 Children's fashions, 2001
Image source: John Wildgoose – Wellcome Images

Children with hearing loss are at risk for developing psychosocial problems. Children with mild to severe hearing loss are less frequently subject to research, in particular in preschool, and we therefore know less about the risk in this particular group. To address this, we compared psychosocial functioning in thirty-five 4–5-year olds with hearing aids to that of 180 typically hearing children. Parent ratings of psychosocial functioning and social skills, as well as scores of receptive vocabulary, were obtained. Children with hearing loss evidenced more psychosocial problems than hearing agemates. Female gender and early detection of hearing loss predicted better psychosocial functioning among children with hearing loss, whereas vocabulary and degree of hearing loss did not. Early intervention addressing psychosocial functioning is warranted for children with all degrees of hearing loss, including mild and moderate. Gender differences should be investigated in future research.

Children who are deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) are at risk for psychosocial problems (Fellinger, Holzinger, Sattel, & Laucht, 2008;Moeller, 2007). Identifying the prevalence of psychosocial problems and their potential causes are vital to prevent and ameliorate these. Research has often addressed children with cochlear implants (Hogan, Shipley, Strazdins, Purcell, & Baker, 2011), but we know comparatively less about the psychosocial development of hard of hearing (HH) children; that is, children with mild to severe hearing loss (25–89 dB) who often use spoken language as their main language and who benefit from hearing aids rather than cochlear implants. By many, this group has been described as “historically underserved” (Holte et al., 2012, p. 163). This lack of knowledge even concerns basic information such as gender differences in psychosocial problems, as outcomes about this particular group are rarely reported separately in DHH research.

Psychosocial adjustment includes emotional, social, and behavioral aspects. Development within these areas is associated with one’s mental health, which is defined by WHO as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential” (WHO, 2014). There is a substantial continuity in psychosocial difficulties from preschool years to middle childhood and adolescence (Luby, Gaffrey, Tillman, April, & Belden, 2014), thus emphasizing the importance of early intervention in this area. Even so, most research has been directed towards middle childhood and adolescence. It is therefore especially important to study preschoolers to provide a knowledge base to build early interventions upon. Specifically, there is a considerable lack of knowledge about (a) the prevalence of psychosocial problems and (b) its relation to degree of hearing loss, gender, and other potential risk and protective factors in HH preschool children. The overarching aim of this study is therefore to provide such information.

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