University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


Alcohol and Drug Use among Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Individuals: A Secondary Analysis of NHANES 2013-2014

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences; Department of Psychiatry; Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Communication Sciences and Disorders | Nervous System Diseases | Otorhinolaryngologic Diseases | Pathological Conditions, Signs and Symptoms | Preventive Medicine | Substance Abuse and Addiction | Therapeutics


BACKGROUND: Within the field of behavioral health research, one of the most understudied populations is the U.S. Deaf and hard-of-hearing (D/HH) population - a diverse group of individuals with hearing loss that have varied language and communication preferences, community affiliations, and sociocultural norms. Recent research identified concerning behavioral health disparities experienced by the D/HH population; yet, little research has been conducted to extend these findings to the topic of substance use disorder.

METHODS: To begin to fill this gap, we conducted a secondary analysis of data from the 2013-2014 administration of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, comparing alcohol and drug use between participants based on their reported hearing status, i.e., D/HH or hearing.

RESULTS: Findings suggest that the overall lifetime prevalence of alcohol and drug use does not differ based on hearing status, and that D/HH and hearing adolescents begin using cannabis on a similar timeline. However, findings also revealed that D/HH respondents were more likely to have been regular cannabis users and heavy alcohol users than hearing respondents. In other words, when D/HH individuals use substances, they tend to be heavy users.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings stress the importance of directing resources to the prevention and treatment of heavy alcohol use in the D/HH population, given that binge drinking is associated with a number of health problems and social consequences. Additionally, the continuation of this empirical work is rather urgent given recent legislative changes regarding cannabis use. D/HH individuals possess a number of risk factors for substance use disorder and, as such, may be more greatly impacted by these legislative changes than individuals from the general U.S.

POPULATION: It is imperative that this impact be captured by future research efforts in order to inform the development of prevention and intervention efforts for the traditionally-underserved D/HH population.


alcohol use, deaf, drug use, hard-of-hearing, substance use disorder, UMCCTS funding

DOI of Published Version



Subst Abus. 2018 Feb 16:1-30. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2018.1442383. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Substance abuse

PubMed ID