The impact of hearing loss on trajectories of depressive symptoms in married couples.

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Hearing loss is a prevalent chronic stressor among older adults and is associated with numerous adverse health outcomes. The life course principle of linked lives highlights that an individual's stressors can impact the health and well-being of others; however, there are limited large-scale studies examining hearing loss within marital dyads. Using 11 waves (1998-2018) of the Health and Retirement Study (n = 4881 couples), we estimate age-based mixed models to examine how 1) one's own hearing, 2) one's spouse's hearing, or 3) both spouses' hearing influence changes in depressive symptoms. For men, their wives' hearing loss, their own hearing loss, and both spouses having hearing loss are associated with increased depressive symptoms. For women, their own hearing loss and both spouses having hearing loss are associated with increased depressive symptoms, but their husbands' hearing loss is not. The connections between hearing loss and depressive symptoms within couples are a dynamic process that unfolds differently by gender over time.





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West, Jessica S, Sherri L Smith and Matthew E Dupre (2023). The impact of hearing loss on trajectories of depressive symptoms in married couples. Social science & medicine (1982), 321. p. 115780. 10.1016/j.socscimed.2023.115780 Retrieved from

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Jessica Sayles West

Medical Instructor in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences

Jessica is a medical sociologist who specializes in research on hearing loss, aging, and health disparities over the life course. Jessica’s work has described the “spillover” effects of hearing loss on health outcomes for both individuals and those close to them, as well as sociodemographic disparities in the onset of and life expectancy with hearing loss. Her research, which leverages both population-level data and electronic health record data, has appeared in the Journals of Gerontology, Social Science & Medicine, Ear and Hearing, and other leading journals in medical sociology, hearing, and aging research.

Jessica received a B.A. from the University of Michigan in Social Anthropology (dual Sociology/Anthropology concentration) followed by an M.P.H. in Sociomedical Sciences with a certificate in Public Health Research Methods from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She subsequently received an M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology with a focus in Medical Sociology and Demography at Duke University. She then completed an NIA T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Duke University Aging Center under the mentorship of Matthew E. Dupre, Ph.D. (Population Health Sciences) and Sherri L. Smith, Au.D., Ph.D. (Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences).


Sherri L Smith

Associate Professor of Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences

Dr. Smith's core research focuses on improving the assessment and treatment of hearing loss in older adults. Specifically, her work centers on comparing the effectiveness of current hearing interventions, developing new, innovative clinical tools, and examining alternative service-delivery approaches that help patients reach their individual hearing goals and improve their quality of life.

Dr. Smith also collaborates with multi-disciplinary teams to better understand the impact of hearing loss on other health conditions and services. Current projects involve understanding the impact of hearing loss on surgical outcomes in older adults, determining the mechanisms that may explain the independent association between hearing loss and falls in older adults, and comparing different models of hearing screenings for older adults in primary care settings.

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