The influence of early language and communication experiences on lifelong health outcomes is receiving increased public health attention. Most deaf children have non-signing hearing parents, and are at risk for not experiencing fully accessible language environments, a possible factor underlying known deaf population health disparities. Childhood indirect family communication-such as spontaneous conversations and listening in the routine family environment (e.g. family meals, recreation, car rides)-is an important source of health-related contextual learning opportunities. The goal of this study was to assess the influence of parental hearing status on deaf people's recalled access to childhood indirect family communication. We analyzed data from the Rochester Deaf Health Survey-2013 (n = 211 deaf adults) for associations between sociodemographic factors including parental hearing status, and recalled access to childhood indirect family communication. Parental hearing status predicted deaf adults' recalled access to childhood indirect family communication (χ2 = 31.939, p < .001). The likelihood of deaf adults reporting "sometimes to never" for recalled comprehension of childhood family indirect communication increased by 17.6 times for those with hearing parents. No other sociodemographic or deaf-specific factors in this study predicted deaf adults' access to childhood indirect family communication. This study finds that deaf people who have hearing parents were more likely to report limited access to contextual learning opportunities during childhood. Parental hearing status and early childhood language experiences, therefore, require further investigation as possible social determinants of health to develop interventions that improve lifelong health and social outcomes of the underserved deaf population.
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Hall WC, Smith SR, Sutter EJ, DeWindt LA, Dye TDV (2018) Considering parental hearing status as a social determinant of deaf population health: Insights from experiences of the "dinner table syndrome" PLoS ONE 13(9): e0202169. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0202169
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