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Hearing loss causes changes for those experiencing it and the people who share in their everyday lives, often referred to as third party disability or caregiver burden. This study emphasises the notion that this phenomenon can be considered a disability, and notes that few studies have considered the experiences of close partners in the experience of severe to profound hearing difficulty. Little attention is directed toward significant others; the study suggests they are underrepresented as are their needs as supporters. Forty-one individuals and their partners were enrolled in this study, each person with hearing impairment (PHI) undergoing cochlear implantation assessment. Varied qualitative assessments were completed by both the PHI and their significant other (SO). Assessments explored multiple psychosocial and contextual factors with regards to wellbeing, emotional state, resilience and general life satisfaction alongside a cochlear implant questionnaire and PTA assessment. One assessment scale was focused solely on SO experience of hearing disability and indicated that most SOs reported difficulties in going out and socialising. Next were communication changes and communication / communicative burden. Safety concerns for partners were highlighted too, where SO may worry about PHI missing alarms, warnings, alerts, or traffic sounds. Multiple factors regarding individual circumstances influenced and impacted upon reported disability. For example, lower education levels correlated highly with third-party disability, and type of relationship led to different dynamics and communication expectations placed upon the PHI. Post-cochlear implantation health-related quality of life scores improved, however SO can remain concerned about safety and other communication factors. Whilst the study noted that SOs showed interest in rehabilitation processes, it cited a drop in appointment attendance by SO post implantation and argued for an emphasis on family-centred approaches at the outset and throughout the process of auditory rehabilitation.

Third-party disability in cochlear implant users.
Völter C, Götze L, Ballasch I, et al.
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Charlotte Rogers

BSc Healthcare Science (Audiology), Allied Health Sciences, De Montfort University, Leicester.

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