Importance Adolescence is a life stage with rapid and major developmental changes, yet little is known about how these changes influence the quality of life of young people who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH).
Objective To determine differences in the 3 domains of a hearing-specific quality-of-life instrument between youth who had severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss based on whether they used no technology, hearing aids, or cochlear implants.
Design and Setting A multi-institutional prospective cohort study.
Participants A convenience sample of 11- to 18-year-old youths with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss recruited between January 1 and December 31, 2008.
Main Outcome Measures Youth Quality of Life–Research Instrument and Youth Quality of Life Instrument–Deaf and Hard of Hearing (YQoL-DHH) scores. The YQoL-DHH was composed of 3 domains: participation, self-acceptance/advocacy, and stigma-related quality of life.
Results A total of 157 individuals participated. Overall mean (SD) age was 14.1 (2.3) years, and the female-male ratio was 82:75. Forty-nine individuals (31.2%) were not using any technology, 45 (28.7%) were using hearing aids, and 63 (40.1%) were using cochlear implants. Mean age of unilateral or first cochlear implant was 62.9 months. Thirty-eight individuals (24.2%) attended schools with DHH programs, 55 (35.0%) attended schools without DHH programs, and 58 (36.9%) attended schools for the deaf. Statistically significant differences were noted in YQoL-DHH participation and perceived stigma scores between the groups when stratified by technology used and school setting.
Conclusions These data suggest that the domains of quality of life as measured by our instrument differ significantly among youth based on technology used and school setting. Youth using no technology or cochlear implants tended to score higher than those using hearing aids in mainstream schools with or without DHH programs and in schools for the deaf. The YQoL-DHH instrument is able to detect differences in quality of life within a group of youth with severe to profound hearing loss.