This article is relevant to multiple audiences including: individuals with disabilities, disability, health, fitness, professionals, community-based service providers, program administrators, managers, CTRS, families, and caregivers.
The article provides an overview of hearing loss and reviews how hearing loss may influence integration, physical activity patterns, and physical fitness for people who are deaf and/or who have experienced hearing loss. The article highlights and offers critique of past research and studies that have not fully taken into account the needs of people who are deaf and/or those who have experienced hearing loss.
The article highlights a need for physical activity programs that address obesity concerns for children who are deaf and/or have hearing loss and advocates for specific programs that will improve balance. The article also emphasizes an ongoing area of need which includes limited research on Deaf adults and physical activity programs.
The article provides an overview of hearing loss, causes, and reviews definitions, trends, and findings from multiple studies. Determinants of hearing loss, measures, and types of hearing loss are discussed. The article identifies methodological problems with studies in psychomotor abilities, motor development, static and dynamic balance, motor performance, and physical and motor fitness of Deaf and hearing impaired children and youth. The article reviews historical research, research criteria, and areas of need including: the need for physical education programs that address obesity concerns for Deaf children and for specific programs that are designed to improve balance. Challenges with communication and integration are also reviewed. The article identifies a number of topics and themes that should be examined for further research concerning the health and wellness for individuals with hearing loss.
Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (PL 101-336) promotes integration into mainstream activities, the Deaf community has a distinct sports culture. Generally, Deaf sport has distanced itself from other disability sport groups. The Deaf community views deafness as a cultural element, not a disability.
The article provides an overview of hearing loss, noting that definitions for deafness and the distinction between deafness and hard of hearing have been problematic. Research definitions of deafness are reviewed. Intensity, frequency, and tone of sound are all involved in determining hearing loss. The three types of hearing loss are reviewed including conductive, sensorineural, and a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. The causes of hearing loss are also reviewed.
Individuals who are deaf can experience linguistic and communication challenges that create barriers for integration with their peers. Identifying appropriate methods for communication depend on the degree of hearing loss and age of onset. The article reviews styles of deaf communication including total communication. Cochlear implant technology is reviewed. The greatest benefits from the technology have occurred for post-lingual deaf adults. Pre-lingually Deaf adults had more limited improvement in speech perception.
The article reviews education treads and data concerning the number of school-age children who are deaf that receive special education services. The article highlights that professionals in deaf education believe that integration of Deaf children in general education classrooms had limited benefits.
The article identifies methodological problems with historical and present research on the psychomotor abilities of Deaf children and youth and critiques the research findings. Criticisms included: evaluation of performance to normative or criterion-referenced standards have been neglected. In addition, the research has focused on group performance profiles rather than the existing health-related fitness focus of evaluating individual performance and the development of a program plan to improve performance.
Information on communication methods was also missing or incomplete in many research reports.
Assessment of motor performance for individuals who are deaf includes all of the problems associated with testing for people without disabilities coupled with unique issues of English proficiency and communication.
The article reviews research on Static and Dynamic Balance. The majority of the studies found deficiencies in both static and dynamic balance for people with hearing impairments and people who are deaf. Physical and Motor Fitness studies were reviewed. Studies produced contradictory findings. The article indicates that very few studies attempted to compare the psychomotor performance of children and youth with varying levels of hearing loss. The article concludes that the effect of etiology on motor performance has yet to be established and needs further investigation.
The article points out that until the 1970s, there was inaccurate agreement that individuals who are Deaf had lower cognitive development than individuals who could hear. More recent research has found that people who are deaf have the same cognitive capability but development is influenced by linguistic and experiential factors that can impede cognitive development. The article reviews how hearing loss may influence physical activity patterns and levels of physical fitness. Most of the research on physical activity programs for individuals who are deaf has focused on physical education in schools and sport programs for children and youth. The physical activity needs adults who are deaf has received limited attention beyond competitive sport. Information on lifestyle and leisure activities, informal and unstructured physical activity and play, and active living is virtually non-existent.
Conclusions and Recommendations:
Most of the historical studies reviewed found individuals who are deaf have comparable skills to individuals who can hear in terms of psychomotor abilities, with the exception of balance.
Deficits in balance can have an effect on motor performance, especially in dynamic and competitive sport situations. However, the article concludes that balance deficits should not prevent involvement in physical activity programs. Recent research also indicates a need for physical education programs that address obesity concerns for children who are deaf and for specific programs that will improve balance.
Integration and involvement of people who are deaf or hearing impaired in community sports and recreation activities presents challenges. Specific training which includes sign language for physical educators and other professionals is needed. Teaching strategies should also emphasize communication skills in physical activity settings. The article concludes that there is limited research to date which focuses on Deaf adults and physical activity programs.