Welfare and criminal justice issues
Hearing loss can be associated with behavioral problems and social difficulties at school. However, the adverse social consequences of listening problems can also continue once children leave school.
Gender differences in the social outcomes of conductive hearing loss are significant.
Adolescent girls may be socially insecure if they have a history of conductive hearing loss in childhood. Adolescent boys are more likely to be socially aggressive and to engage in antisocial behavior. This can impact on welfare issues and result in illegal behavior.
For example some people with a history of middle ear disease may be affected by sexual abuse. Court reports indicate that poor social skills, as a result of poor hearing, can be a contributing factor in the use of aggression and violence to obtain sexual partners. The abusers and their victims may both have a history of middle ear disease and/or current listening difficulties. Research also indicates that children with poor hearing are more likely to become the victims of sexual abuse.
Studies of the prevalence of hearing loss among prison inmates indicate that people with hearing loss are over represented in prison populations. This is an especially important issue for groups such as Aboriginal, Maori and Pacific Island people who are known to have high levels of conductive hearing loss and for the people who develop the policies that guide the welfare and criminal justice systems. Studies have found that 85% of Indigenous inmates have some degree of hearing loss. An article on hearing loss and the criminal justice system can be downloaded here. This is an important issue for the criminal justice system on many levels including participation in the court system, management and wellbeing of prisoners and rehabilitation. A presentation on this issue can be downloaded from here. The association between hearing loss and crime also suggests the importance of understanding the social effects of hearing loss in crime prevention, especially among Indigenous people.
However, conductive hearing loss is just one of the many factors that contribute to social disadvantage. Obviously children with a history of middle ear disease do not inevitably become the victims or perpetrators of sexual abuse, or prison inmates. The presence or absence of factors like parental and educational support systems play a critical role in determining the outcomes of conductive hearing loss and whether children's learning and social problems develop into major personal and social difficulties for adults.
If you are a parent or teacher of a child with a persistent conductive hearing loss, the fact that you are reading the information on this website suggests that you are concerned and willing to seek solutions to help your child or student avoid the major adverse social outcomes that can result from conductive hearing loss. It is important that you are aware, concerned and proactive in your efforts to do so, and that you do not over react when confronted with negative statistics about the results of conductive hearing loss for a minority of people.
If you are involved in the criminal justice system this is an important and neglected area of criminal justice. The attached document gives background to this issue for Aboriginal people.
A presentation on Indigenous hearing loss and courtroom communication
An article on Indigenous hearing loss and the criminial justice system