Background: Hearing loss can have an effect on physical, psychosocial and cognitive wellbeing of an individual. Despite the research on attitudes and stigma towards hearing loss, people with hearing loss (PHL) continue to delay seeking help. Thus, it is vital to look at alternative theories which have been successfully used in disability research to better understand how PHL perceives hearing loss.
Purpose: The aim of the current exploratory study was to examine the social representation of ‘hearing loss’ in people with hearing loss (PHL) in India, Republic of Korea (ROK), United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US).
Research Design: The study used a cross-sectional survey design
Study Sample: In this study, 424 participants were recruited using a consecutive sampling method in four countries (India, ROK, UK and US).
Data Collection and Analysis: Data collection was conducted using a questionnaire Data were analyzed using content analysis similarities analysis, prototypical analysis, and Chi-Square analysis.
Results: The free associations of the PHL were grouped into 37 categories. The most commonly reported categories were communication difficulties, negative mental state, aging, assessment and management, causes of hearing loss, hearing ability or disability, hearing instruments, and symptoms of hearing loss. Similarities analysis and prototypical analysis highlighted two main negative categories (negative mental state and communication difficulties) which form the central elements of social representation (SR) of hearing loss. PHL associated hearing loss mainly as a negative phenomenon but with some positive and neutral aspects. Respondents from ROK reported a greater number of neutral associations compared to other countries. There were cross cultural similarities and differences in terms of PHLs social representation of hearing loss, but there were more similarities than differences.
Conclusions: The study provides an insight into how PHL collectively view their ‘hearing loss’ and helps to develop our understanding of the influence of culture on the Social representation of ‘hearing loss’. The results will aid the development of culturally appropriate public education campaigns, marketing material and appropriate rehabilitation for PHL.