Macquarie University
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Identity effect of hearing changes: A qualitative exploration of late-deafened adults’ experiences through hearing loss & cochlear implantation

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posted on 2023-02-22, 03:44 authored by Felicity Bleckly

This thesis examines identity challenges presented by both hearing loss acquired as an adult, and regaining hearing through a cochlear implant. Hearing loss can challenge the understanding late-deafened adults have of themselves, while they reconcile with changes forced on them. Receiving a cochlear implant creates a different hearing status, another often unsettling challenge with a life-long commitment to technology. 

Using an online survey administered through social media, with follow-up semi-structured interviews, participants answered questions about their hearing loss and cochlear implant experiences. Forty-four people answered the survey and 16 participated in an in-depth interview. A key finding was most late-deafened adults did not have access to support as their hearing changed, but when they did, positive role models helped them understand and cope with their hearing loss and sustain their identity. Furthermore, findings suggested more hearing healthcare providers need to introduce a support structure including referral to hearing rehabilitation, counselling and peer groups, to help late-deafened adults cope with their changing hearing status. 

The cochlear implant decision was difficult for many because it meant accepting they were deaf, and knowing that through the implantation process they were likely to lose any residual hearing. Participants valued talking with people/mentors who already had an implant which often helped with the decision process. A cochlear implant changes hearing status and comments from most participants indicate once again they had to rethink their identity. Were they now hearing, deaf or something in between? After a cochlear implant, this research found some participants retained and strengthened their hearing identity, while others regained their previously held hearing identity. Nevertheless, some participants, after surgery, identified as deaf or disabled when they had not done so, prior to implantation.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: Identity Effect of Hearing Changes A Qualitative Exploration of Late-deafened Adults’ Experiences through Hearing Loss & Cochlear Implantation -- Chapter 2. An Analytical Critique of Previous Research: The Intersection of Hearing Loss, Cochlear Implantation & Identity in Late-Deafened Adults -- Chapter 3. Research Strategy: Identifying the Theoretical Framework & Research Methodology -- Chapter 4. Understanding Participants’ Hearing Loss Experiences -- Chapter 5. Understanding Participants’ Cochlear Implant Experiences: Biologically Deaf, Technologically Hearing – An Unknown Challenge to Identity -- Chapter 6. Discussion, Contribution & Future Research -- References -- Appendix 1. Terminology -- Appendix 2. Invitations Posted to Social Media -- Appendix 3. LimeSurvey Instructions -- Appendix 4. LimeSurvey Questions & Descriptive Frequency Tables -- Appendix 5. Interview Consent Form -- Appendix 6. Researcher Interview Question Prompts -- Appendix 7. Examples of Coding -- Appendix 8. Coding Tree Table, Showing all Child Codes & Number of References -- Appendix 9. Ethics Approval

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Communications, Creative Arts, Language and Literature

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Nicole Matthews

Additional Supervisor 1

Rachael Gunn


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




111 pages

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