Introduction: This study explores adverse childhood communication experiences and its RRs for acquiring specific chronic diseases and mental health disorders in adults who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Methods: A cross-sectional design with snowball sampling was used to recruit adults who were deaf and hard of hearing and were born or became deaf in both ears before age 13 years. Patient- reported outcomes surveys in American Sign Language and English were disseminated to collect data about early life communication experiences with caregivers. Modified Poisson regression with robust SEs was used to calculate RR estimates and 95% CIs for all medical conditions with early life communication experiences as main predictors.

Results: Data collection occurred from May 2016 to July 2016, October 2016 to April 2018, and October 2018 to May 2019. The U.S. sample consisted of 1,524 adults who were born or became deaf early. After adjusting for parental hearing status and known correlates of medical conditions, poorer direct child−caregiver communication was significantly associated with an increased risk of being diagnosed with diabetes (RRR=1.12, 95% CI=1.01, 1.24), hypertension (RRR=1.10, 95% CI=1.03, 1.17), and heart disease (RRR=1.61, 95% CI=1.39, 1.87). Poor indirect family communication/inclusion increased risks for lung diseases (RRR=1.19, 95% CI=1.07, 1.33) and depression/anxiety disorders (RRR=1.34, 95% CI=1.24, 1.44). The absolute risk increase and number needed to harm are also reported.

Conclusions: Outcomes data reported by patients who were deaf and hard of hearing demonstrated that poorer direct child−caregiver communication and ongoing exclusion from incidental family communication were associated with increased risks for multiple chronic health outcomes. Practices should consider developing and utilizing an adverse childhood communication screening measure to prevent or remediate language deprivation and communication neglect in pediatric patients who were deaf and hard of hearing.

  • Author(s):
    Kushalnagar, P., Ryan, C., Paludneviciene, R., Spellun, A., & Gulati, S.
  • Published:
  • Journal:
    American Journal of Preventive Medicine
  • DOI:
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Kushalnagar, P., Ryan, C., Paludneviciene, R., Spellun, A., & Gulati, S. (2020). Adverse Childhood Communication Experiences Associated With an Increased Risk of Chronic Diseases in Adults Who Are Deaf. American journal of preventive medicine, 59(4), 548–554.