Self-reported hearing loss, hearing aid use, and cognitive function among U.S. older adults.

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There has been increasing attention to the role of hearing loss as a potentially modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. However, more nationally-representative studies are needed to understand the co-occurring changes in hearing loss and cognitive function in older adults over time, and how hearing aid use might influence this association. The purpose of this report is to examine how age-related changes in hearing loss and hearing aid use are associated with trajectories of cognitive function in a nationally-representative sample of U.S. older adults. We used 11 waves of longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) from 1998 to 2018 to examine changes in self-reported hearing loss, hearing aid use, and cognitive function in adults 65 and older by race and ethnicity. Results from mixed models showed that greater levels of hearing loss were associated with lower levels of cognitive function at age 65 in non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic older adults. We also found that the associations diminished across age in White and Black individuals; but remained persistent in Hispanic individuals. The use of hearing aids was not associated with cognitive function in Black older adults but appeared protective for White and Hispanic older adults. Overall, the findings from this report suggest that the timely identification of hearing loss and subsequent acquisition of hearing aids may be important considerations for reducing declines in cognitive function that manifests differently in U.S. population subgroups.





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West, Jessica S, Sherri L Smith and Matthew E Dupre (2022). Self-reported hearing loss, hearing aid use, and cognitive function among U.S. older adults. International journal of population studies, 8(1). pp. 17–26. 10.18063/ijps.v8i1.1308 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.


Matthew E. Dupre

Associate Professor in Population Health Sciences

Dr. Dupre is an Associate Professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences and the Department of Sociology. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for Aging and Human Development and member of the Cardiovascular Outcomes Group at the Duke Clinical Research Institute. Dr. Dupre is a medical sociologist who specializes in research on aging and the life course, health disparities, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) outcomes in older adults. As an interdisciplinary researcher, he has focused on several lines of work: (i) race and socioeconomic disparities in trajectories of chronic disease and mortality, (ii) the role of social stressors in the onset and progression of CVD, (iii) the development of adaptive risk-assessment models, and (iv) the social determinants of healthy aging in China. A unifying thread in his program of research is the application of life course theory to clinical outcomes research, the integration of population- and patient-level data, and the use of innovative statistical methods to better understand how exposure to social factors shape inequalities in health and aging. Dr. Dupre is the Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopedia of Gerontology and Population Aging (2021), co-editor of the book Disability Trends at Older Ages (in press), and has published in the leading journals of medicine, epidemiology, sociology, and public health. He has served as an advisor to the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Population Aging and currently serves on the editorial boards for multiple journals.

Areas of Expertise:
Medical Sociology; Population Health; Social Epidemiology; Cardiovascular Disease; Aging; and Quantitative Methods

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