Analyzing Divorce in the Deaf Community

  • Hearing loss and deafness can take a toll on relationships.
  • A recent survey suggests that deafness or hearing loss can play a factor in the marital problems that lead to a divorce.
  • Studies are mixed when it comes to whether hearing loss or deafness could actually play a factor in the decision to divorce.

"Similar to that of individuals with a full capacity to hear, divorce can be equally as devastating in the community of those who suffer from hearing loss or deafness."

Whether you were born with a condition or it developed as you got older, physical conditions or physical disabilities are never desired. They can often take an emotional toll on an individual and their relationships with others, especially if it is a newer development in one’s life. These relationships can sometimes find themselves unable to recover from the ups and downs of the emotions of the effected individual and the physical changes going on in their own life.

When it comes to physical conditions or disabilities that one can have as a temporary or permanent place in one’s life, one of the more difficult ones that an individual can experience is deafness.

Understanding hearing loss

Hearing loss, deafness, or hearing impairment refers to the ability to hear things, either totally or partially, according to Medical News Today. There are different degrees to the symptoms of hearing loss, but all of them can have some type of effect on the individual’s relationship with others.

Because of the problems involved with understanding speech, especially with noise or other sounds in the given area, it can be frustrating for both the individual with hearing loss and their significant other without the condition. The individual experiencing hearing loss can find themselves depending on lip-reading when communicating with others. This reliance can create tension within the relationship, that lends itself to divorce.

Marital discord

Hearing Direct, a hearing aid resource, carried out a survey that measured the social consequences of hearing loss, according to The Telegraph. The survey questioned a thousand individuals with deafness over the age of 40, and a third of the respondents said their inability to hear properly had led to arguments with their family.

Additionally, one in 16 individuals stated that their partner had threatened to leave or divorce them, unless they got their hearing sorted out.

Much of this harsh reaction steams from individuals who enter a marriage with someone who can hear, and suddenly their partner loses that ability. This leaves them in a position that they did not think that they would be in and do not always know how to react.

Making accommodations

Additionally, those who are forced to wear a hearing aid in their middle age, find themselves bitter and resentful of their circumstances. They can sometimes find themselves constantly in a bad mood and may find themselves taking out their frustrations on themselves and on their spouse. Arguments can arise, sparking various types of conflicts.

Speaking of conflict, marital conflict can surface when a couple is forced to deal with the costs involved in helping someone with hearing loss. While employers are required under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide reasonable accommodations for the deaf to ensure effective communication, many people still find themselves having to pay for various aspects of their hearing experience, in order to combat their own deafness and improve their hearing.

For those whose employers are not providing reasonable accommodations for those suffering from severe hearing loss, deaf rights and deaf discrimination litigation attorneys represent the rights of those who suffer from deaf and hearing loss, according to The Huffington Post.

Mixed studies

Many studies have been done, testing how marital satisfaction is affected by hearing loss. The results have been all over the map.  Anne McIntosh of Central Piedmont Community College conducted a study measuring marital satisfaction in a couple comprised of an individual who is deaf and an individual who can hear and found in her results that these couples can experience high levels of perceived marital satisfaction. Additionally, she found that these couples can employ collaborative and partner-oriented conflict resolution skills.

However, not all of the studies turned out the same. A study at Utah State University found that the marital adjustment level of a couple comprised of a deaf individual and an individual who can hear was lower than couples comprised of two deaf individuals.

Despite no statistical differences being found in this study, many hypothesize that language and cultural differences play a role in the decreased levels of marital adjustment.

Moving forward

After the dust of divorce settles, many individuals who suffer from some sort of hearing loss or are complete deaf, find themselves at a crossroads in their lives and look to pick up the pieces. Luckily for them, technology and new avenues have given individuals with these conditions a hand in getting back out onto the dating scene.

The internet has given deaf individuals and individuals who suffer from hearing loss a second lease on life through a variety of deaf dating sites. The deaf dating app also allows individuals to meet individuals who are fluent in American Sign Language and suffer from hearing loss or deafness.

Similar to that of individuals with a full capacity to hear, divorce can be equally as devastating in the community of those who suffer from hearing loss or deafness. They too find themselves needing the same emotional support, as those who can hear. They need to find to find support with individuals who can effectively communicate with them and understand their needs. Individuals of this community need to unpack all of the complex emotions that are associated with ending an unhappy marriage, and thanks to innovations in communication and technology, it has never been easier for individuals suffering from hearing loss or deafness to do so.

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