Young adulthood is a time of great change in a young person’s life. In particular, who the young adult considers their “family” may change rapidly. The incorporation of family members into rehabilitation has been shown to improve the delivery and outcomes of care across a range of measures, disease aetiologies, and treatment types. However, it is unclear which family members should be involved and to what extent in the audiological rehabilitation of young adults living with hearing loss. The present study aimed to describe how young people and their family members describe the roles of family members in rehabilitative audiological health care.
Qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with approximately 15 young adults with hearing loss and family members. The interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed using a constructivist grounded theoretic methodology.
It was found that young people describe their family members using several roles, including as “support person”, “advocate”, “reminder”, “student”, and “chaperone”. Which role they ascribe to a family member is shaped by the needs that the young adult has, how comfortable he or she feels managing their own hearing care, and how supported they feel by their clinician. Roles determine how likely a family member is to be wanted or included by the young person, as well as when their involvement might be more or less valued.
Understanding the roles of family members in audiological rehabilitation will assist clinicians to incorporate them in service delivery, allowing for better integrated, more patient- and family-centred care.