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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Biographies of Hearing Loss: Understanding the Social World of Late Deafened Adults Through Life Experience Narratives

  • Author(s): Iverson, Stormy Meriah
  • Advisor(s): Plann, Susan
  • et al.

This dissertation provides new insights into the world of late deafened adults, a previously underrepresented, minoritized group that has experienced not only a loss of hearing, but in many cases, also a loss of self and cultural identity. Life experience narratives were collected from seven late deafened adults who participated in in-depth, semi-structured qualitative interviews. Video-recordings of the interviews were transcribed in order to identify the major themes, or recurring patterns of meaning (ideas, thought, feelings) within each transcript, as well as patterns of meanings across narratives. Transcripts were analyzed using interpretive/hermeneutic phenomenology, based on the philosophies of Husserl and Heidegger. Fifteen emergent themes were abstracted and clustered together under four broader, super-ordinate themes or dimensions of the lived experience of late deafened adults. The dimensions included: transformation of self, social interaction, interaction with technology, and deaf advocacy. Although each late deafened adult’s lived experience of becoming deafened was unique because of their personal history, context and background, there were similarities in the descriptions of the experience. Themes from the narratives of participants were strengthened when they were confirmed in subsequent interviews, with differences within their experiences adding depth and breadth to the dimensions of the experience. The constituted meanings were then interpreted against the backdrops of wider socio-political and historical contexts that have shaped American Deaf Culture. The findings of this study provide a heuristic tool to restructure the understanding of late deafened adults, shifting from a strictly medicalized paradigm to a comprehensive model based on understanding the social world of late deafened adults.

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