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The career choices we make are greatly influenced by our values, interests and environmental influences. The deaf population, unlike the hearing population, faces many obstacles when dealing with career development because of their inability to hear, and thus the inability to communicate effectively with hearing people. In the deaf population, Lerman and Guilfoyle (1970) found that in comparison with a hearing adolescent "the language barrier places a ceiling on the level of [the deaf adolescent's] vocational aspirations" (p.53). Unlike hearing adolescents, deaf adolescent's career options are limited. In the deaf population, the factors that are most influential in the choice of a career are family life, education and communication.
The familial environment influences a deaf person from the moment they lose their hearing. Children that are born deaf are sometimes treated differently based on the hearing ability of their parents. According to Kluwin et al. (1992) "the way in which the dynamics in a family with hearing parents can act to limit the career development of a child with a hearing impairment involves exposure to age-normed activities and responsibilities" (p. 223). Hearing parents of deaf children may see their child as disabled and may want to shelter and protect their child from the outside world. However, this may have an adverse effect when the child grows because he/she did not have the opportunity to reach out and explore the world in his/her own time. Also, deaf parents of deaf children have an easier time communicating with them because they do not have to learn a second language to be able to establish a mode of communication. Therefore Meadow (1980), as cited in Kluwin et al. (1992) found that "the self-image of deaf students with deaf parents is significantly more positive than that of students with hearing parents" (p. 222). Not having a positive self-image can hinder the career development process of a deaf individual.
Education plays a major part in the career that a deaf adolescent will choose. According to Lerman and Guilfoyle (1970) deafness does not only isolate an individual from all auditory experiences, it also has a negative effect on reading competence (p.1). Therefore getting an education that fulfills the specific needs of a deaf individual is crucial. Lerman and Guilfoyle (1970) found through factor analysis that there are five factors that influence a deaf adolescent's pre-vocational behavior: intelligence, middle-class environment, language competence, intellectual-aesthetic stimulation and adolescent independence (p. 41-46). These factors are important in studying how deaf adolescents can increase their pre-vocational knowledge, and therefore give them a greater chance in succeeding in finding a career. Crammatte (1987) states "education and therefore professional competence, aids in overcoming employment barriers arising from a hearing impairment" (p.35). It is crucial that educators of deaf students understand the importance of showing the students the different career choices available to them and allow them to explore their interests and values in different career settings. Kluwin et al. (1992) points out that because deaf students don't have the ability to soak up vocational options through daily conversation "growth through the awareness of occupations and exploration mustâ€¦come primarily as a result of planned educational experiences" (p. 221). Some deaf adolescents, like hearing adolescents may decide to increase their chances of getting a better job by going to college. In the deaf population, Crammatte (1987) found, "level of education attained plays an important role in the professional employment of hearing-impaired people" (p. 38). It is not a surprise, then, that Crammate (1987) concluded that "average salaries increase with higher levels of educational attainment" (p.45). Although deaf people will always have a harder time in the workplace than their hearing co-workers, the completion of higher education increases their likelihood of obtaining a professional career.
Communication is the key to any type of relationship. Whether it takes place in the family, in school or in the workplace, the ability to communicate effectively allows the relationship to succeed. With this said, when studying the deaf population it is important to note that Crammatte (1987) found, "hearing impairment affects family relations, education, employment, and social relationsâ€¦all areas of a hearing person's life" (p. 25). Without the ability to hear, young children don't learn how to speak, and with the lack of speech another form of communication must take place. According to Crammatte (1970) some of the different modes of communication used by deaf people include sign language, speech reading, talking, writing and combinations of the four (p. 26). Also, the different variations of communication depend on the severity and ago of hearing loss. Crammatte (1970) pointed out "the less than severely impaired person has enough residual hearing either to function in certain situations or to be helped by a hearing aid" (p.29). The deaf people that do not have severe hearing loss can have an easier time integrating with the hearing world because of their ability to speak and maybe hear with a hearing aid. Also, the deaf people that were not born deaf and were able to learn to speak have an easier time because although they may not be able to hear anymore, they know what it sounds like to talk. In the words of Crammatte (1970) "the person who became hearing impaired after acquiring speech in the usual auditory manner is likely to use speech expressively more readily and with greater confidence than someone who has never heard speechâ€¦" (p. 30).
In conclusion, family life, education and communication all play different roles in career development of the deaf population. According to a survey done by Crammatte (1970) the career that most deaf professionals end up in is education (p. 41). This can be due to the fact that communication with other deaf students is easier than with hearing co-workers, and they may feel more comfortable in the community they grew up in. Although the deaf population has a limited option of career choices, there are still many deaf people that succeed in fields that may seem inapproachable like Evelyn Glennie, the first professional solo percussionist; and yes, she is deaf.