PhD, Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2013
MHS, Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2007
BA, University of Indiana, 1999
Trained in the epidemiology of aging, Dr. Deal studies how hearing impairment and vascular factors and markers influence cognitive function in order to inform strategies for the prevention of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.
With no current treatments to alter the natural history of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, public health prevention efforts are paramount and for delaying dementia onset. Characterized by progressive cognitive decline and culminating in loss of independence and mortality, dementia results in greater health care expenditures than any other chronic disease affecting older adults. Worldwide, 47 million older adults have dementia, and without the implementation of prevention strategies, this number is expected to nearly triple by 2050. To combat this challenge, my research is focused on quantifying how hearing impairment and vascular factors impact the aging brain and cognitive function, and to provide insight into mechanistic pathways involved. Two-thirds of adults over the age of 70 have a clinically meaningful hearing loss that may impact everyday communication, and may causally increase dementia risk through its effects of distorted peripheral encoding of sound on cognitive load, changes in brain structure/function, and/or reduced social engagement. Given existing but underutilized aural rehabilitative treatments, elucidation of the role and mechanism of hearing impairment in dementia and cognitive decline has the potential to identify targets for future clinical research and to ultimately to inform efforts to prevent these adverse outcomes in older adults.
My methodological interests include the measurement of cognitive function in older adults with sensory loss, particularly how missing data and/or mode of cognitive testing, may bias cognitive test results in older adults with sensory function, as well as the estimation of trajectories of change in functional outcomes using data from large observational epidemiologic studies in the presence of informative drop-out.
Honors and Awards
Rising Star Award, American Geriatrics Society/ National Institute of Health U13 Sensory Impairment and Cognitive Decline Workshop, Bethesda, MD (2017)
Outstanding Teaching Faculty, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (2016, 2019, 2020)