Factors Affecting DHH-Specific Quality of Life in Deaf/HH Adolescents Attending Mainstream Schools
Stepanchak, Maria A
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Background: The Youth Quality of Life – Deafness and Hard of Hearing (YQoL-DHH) module measures DHH-specific quality of life in adolescents across three domains – Participation, Self-Acceptance/Advocacy, and Perceived Stigma. QoL is an important concept to measure for DHH youth, as it reflects perceptions of ability to interact with peers, which is an important part of adolescent development. Few studies have examined the relationship between adolescents’ difficulty understanding conversations and QoL outcomes among those attending mainstream schools. Methods: This cross-sectional study utilized data collected in 2010 from sites across the U.S. The sample included 158 DHH adolescents, ages 11 to 18, attending mainstream schools either with (36%) or without (64%) a DHH program. This study examined the relationship between adolescents’ perceived level of difficulty understanding conversations and DHH-specific QoL, and identified potential predictors of perceived difficulty understanding conversations. Data were analyzed using multiple regression and logistic regression analysis. The models controlled for multiple demographic factors including age, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic location. Results: Results showed that perceived level of difficulty understanding conversations is significantly associated with lower scores in Participation QoL (p<0.01) and higher scores in the Perceived Stigma domain (p<0.05), indicating higher DHH related perceived stigma in adolescents who reported higher levels of difficulty understanding conversations. Perceived level of difficulty understanding conversations was not significantly associated with Self-Acceptance/Advocacy QoL. Only preferred mode of communication was a significant predictor of self-reported level of difficulty understanding conversations. Adolescents who had equal preference for communication via sign language and speech reported significantly higher difficulty understanding conversations (p<0.05). Conclusions: Results demonstrated that perceived level of difficulty understanding conversations impacts QoL in the Participation and Perceived Stigma domains, but is not significantly associated with Self-Acceptance/Advocacy. Equal preference for speech and sign language was associated with higher difficulty understanding conversations in this analysis, although it has been shown to be associated with higher QoL in previous studies. These results can help inform decision-making for clinicians, educators, and parents, and can be used to tailor interventions and programs to support DHH youth.
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