A significant problem of classic theories of socialization, such as Cooley’s looking-glass self, is that such theories fail to consider biological factors such as hearing in the process of socialization. To address this problem, I raised a two-pronged question: how does deafness affect social interactions upon which much of socialization is dependent and can the experiences of one person’s lifelong socialization help uncover limitations of a classic theory of socialization? The key study participant in this instrumental case study is an individual with moderately severe hearing loss and whose lifelong experiences were collected primarily through ethnographic field techniques. Findings from secondary data provide ample evidence that hearing loss can have serious effects on social interaction and socialization and findings from the individual case itself, while somewhat inconclusive, are suggestive of how hearing loss affected this individual during her lifetime, this being more strongly observed in the later stages of her socialization. Key points that emerge from this study are that (a) the complexity of socialization poses great challenges in teasing out its many factors, but (b) including hearing as a factor advances our insight of the process and (c) this in turn, has implications for how educators understand and teach the concept, and (d) this insight can increase our sensitivity for individuals with hearing loss.


instrumental case study, socialization, hearing loss, deafness, looking-glass self theory

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Grace Keyes is an anthropologist with research interests in medical anthropology. She taught anthropology and sociology in the Department of Sociology at St. Mary's University until her recent retirement. Please direct correspondence to gkeyes@stmarytx.edu.


I thank “Dr. Jane West” (the key participant in this study) for supporting the initial project that ultimately led to the research for this article, for sharing her life story, and for her continued encouragement. I also wish to thank the editor and reviewers of TQR whose expertise and keen vision provided me with greatly appreciated guidance in improving this paper.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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