The Impact of Cochlear Implants on the Quality of Life and Personhood of Cochlear Implant Users as Expressed In Patient Narratives
Cochlear implants are electronic medical devices that create hearing capabilities in those with inner ear damage that results in total or partial hearing loss. The decision to get a cochlear implant can be difficult and controversial. Cochlear implants have many physical and social impacts on cochlear implant users. The aim of this study was to evaluate how patient narratives written by people with cochlear implants (or their caregivers) express issues of quality of life and personhood related to the use of this medical device. The methodology used to answer this question was a content analysis of patient narratives. The content analysis was done using grounded theory and the constant comparative method. Two sensitizing concepts, quality of life and personhood, were used and became the large umbrella themes found in the narratives. Under the major theme of quality of life, the sub-themes that emerged were improved hearing, improved communication skills, and assimilation into the hearing world. Under the major theme of personhood, the sub-themes that emerged were confidence, self-image, and technology and the body. Another major theme, importance of education, also emerged. In general, cochlear implant users and their caregivers expressed in their narratives that cochlear implants have positive effects on the quality of life of cochlear implant users. This is because almost all of the narrative writers reported improved hearing, improved communication skills, and better assimilation into the hearing world. In addition, it was found that cochlear implants do not have a significant affect on the actual personal identity of cochlear implant users, though they do make them more confident. The majority of cochlear implant users expressed that they view the cochlear implant device as an assistive tool they use as opposed to a part of themselves. Lastly, there is a need for more awareness of or access to education and therapy for cochlear implant users.