The Michigan Daily-Saturday. May 17, 1980-Page 7
NURSE REVEALS COMPREIHENSION PROBLEMS
Study sheds light on deaf
By JOYCE FRIEDEN
Recently completed research in the School of
Nursing has several implications for medical per-
sonnel in the field of treatment of deaf patients.
"The Deaf and Understanding Common Medical
Terms" is the title of a two-year study completed in
April, 1979, by registered nurse Molly Kline as part of
the requirements for a master's degree in Nursing.
KLINE'S STUDY INVOLVED 41 subjects, all
senior citizens (between the ages of 55 and 80). The 20
subjects with normal hearing included one male and
19 female residents of a Royal Oak senior citizens'
home. The eight male and 13 female deaf subjects
were members of the Detroit Deaf Senior Citizens'
Kline used a written questionnaire to test each sub-
ject. She asked them to match listed organs with their
location in the human body, explain the functions of
the given body parts, and choose the correct
definition of certain medical terms (the ones listed
were ailments common to the elderly, such as
pneumonia, constipation, etc.).
In all three areas, the deaf patients scored lower
than those with normal hearing, and in some cases
the results were significant. For example, only 33 per
cent of the deaf senior citizens chose the correct
definition of "constipation," whereas 100 per cent of
those with normal hearing answered the question
correctly. When asked what "cirrhosis" meant, ony
five per cent of the deaf answered correctly com-
pared to 95 per cent of the other group.
"STUDIES HAVE SHOWN that if a hearing person
is speaking to a deaf person,. the deaf person will un-
derstand only 30 per cent of what is being said," she
In addition, the deaf individual's comprehension
level is greatly influenced by the stage of life at which
deafness, was acquired, Kline said. Educators
separate deaf people into three categories: the "pre-
lingual deaf" (those who are deaf by age three), the
"post-lingual deaf" (those becoming deaf between
three and 18) and the "adult onset" cases (those
becoming deaf as adults). "A child who becomes deaf
after the age three has completed at least two of the
three stages of language development with the help of
auditory feedback ... and may even had some prac-
tice at expressing himself verbally," she said.
As a result, Kline explained, the "post-lingual
deaf's" ability to understand what is said is much dif-
ferent, and often better than, that of the "pre-lingual
"The important thing is not to assume that the deaf
person understands you if they don't ask a question
... different kinds of deafness mean different levels
of comprehension," she added.
Kline stressed that the results of her study cannot
be generalized since she used subjects from a specific
region and age group than a random sample of the
population. But she also added that "this suggest
there are definite problems in reading and under-
standing among deaf individuals. Further studies
should be done to further evaluate the problem."
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