Hearing Impairment and Mental Health Among Married Couples

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<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title> <jats:sec> <jats:title>Objectives</jats:title> <jats:p>Disablement is a significant health problem and chronic stressor for older adults and is associated with negative mental health outcomes. Although some research has explored how disability extends beyond individuals to influence the mental health of their support networks, less population-based research has assessed the consequences of hearing impairment, a growing public health concern that affects 72.4% of people aged 65 and older. Moreover, although much research has examined the negative individual impact of hearing impairment, less population-based research has assessed its consequences on spouses. To fill this gap, the current study builds on gender, marriage, and stress proliferation research to examine 1) the association between own hearing impairment and spouses’ depressive symptoms, and 2) whether this association varies by the gender of the spouse.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title>Methods</jats:title> <jats:p>Fixed-effects regression models were conducted using data from 5,485 couples (10,970 individuals) from 10 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (1998-2016).</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title>Results</jats:title> <jats:p>Wives’ fair or poor hearing is significantly associated with an increase in husbands’ depressive symptoms, net of controls. However, husbands’ fair or poor hearing is not associated with an increase in wives’ depressive symptoms.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title>Discussion</jats:title> <jats:p>These findings suggest that hearing impairment can proliferate from one spouse to the other, but that this proliferation depends on gender. Health care providers need to be aware of the implications for husbands when treating women with hearing impairment.</jats:p> </jats:sec>






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West, Jessica S (n.d.). Hearing Impairment and Mental Health Among Married Couples. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B. 10.1093/geronb/gbaa023 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/20160.

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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).

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