Alcohol Use and Deaf and Hard of Hearing College Students

Christine Gannon 1 * , Theresa Hunter Gibble 2, Retta Evans 3

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp. 161-187

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Alcohol misuse on college campuses has been shown to be the cause of physical, socio-emotional, and academic harms. Alcohol is also an issue at Gallaudet University but there is a gap in the literature describing this phenomenon. Using the social ecological model, this qualitative case study explored student perceptions and experiences with alcohol use through interviews with 24 deaf and hard of hearing college students at Gallaudet University. The main themes included: something to do, isolation, coping, communication, “playing catch up with life,” belonging, peer pressure, and university dynamics. The results of this study supported the research on alcohol use in the college environment, showing these themes to also be true at Gallaudet University. As a result, researchers recommend for Gallaudet University and other institutions use the education and interventions shown to be effective in the College Alcohol Intervention Matrix with deaf and hard of hearing students. Researchers also identified themes that were divergent from general college students and specific to the experience of being deaf and hard of hearing. This study highlighted the interpersonal level impact and importance of communication with alcohol and related harms. Researchers recommend further research on the spectrum of communication isolation on alcohol use, related harms, and the social-ecological impact of these experiences. In addition, researchers recommend programming and services to specifically address the issues that occur as a result of isolation, coping challenges, desire to belong, susceptibility to peer pressure, and wanting to catch up on life. It is hoped that the insights gained from this study will be used to inform interventions for deaf and hard of hearing college students, to reduce alcohol misuse, and thus to impact positive change.

Keywords: Deaf, hard of hearing, alcohol, college, university, isolation.