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Assessing Bias in Cognitive Testing for Older Adults with Sensory Impairment: An Analysis of Differential Item Functioning in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging (BLSA) and the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Neurocognitive Study (ARIC-NCS).

TitleAssessing Bias in Cognitive Testing for Older Adults with Sensory Impairment: An Analysis of Differential Item Functioning in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging (BLSA) and the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Neurocognitive Study (ARIC-NCS).
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsNichols E, Deal JA, Swenor BK, Abraham AG, Armstrong NM, Carlson MC, Griswold M, Lin FR, Mosley TH, Ramulu PY, Reed NS, Resnick SM, Sharrett AR, Gross AL
JournalJ Int Neuropsychol Soc
Pagination1-12
Date Published2021 Apr 26
ISSN1469-7661
Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Vision and hearing impairments affect 55% of people aged 60+ years and are associated with lower cognitive test performance; however, tests rely on vision, hearing, or both. We hypothesized that scores on tests that depend on vision or hearing are different among those with vision or hearing impairments, respectively, controlling for underlying cognition.

METHODS: Leveraging cross-sectional data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) and the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Neurocognitive Study (ARIC-NCS), we used item response theory to test for differential item functioning (DIF) by vision impairment (better eye presenting visual acuity worse than 20/40) and hearing impairment (better ear .5-4 kHz pure-tone average > 25 decibels).

RESULTS: We identified DIF by vision impairment for tests whose administrations do not rely on vision [e.g., Delayed Word Recall both in ARIC-NCS: .50 logit difference between impaired and unimpaired (p = .04) and in BLSA: .62 logits (p = .02)] and DIF by hearing impairment for tests whose administrations do not rely on hearing [Digit Symbol Substitution test in BLSA: 1.25 logits (p = .001) and Incidental Learning test in ARIC-NCS: .35 logits (p = .001)]. However, no individuals had differences between unadjusted and DIF-adjusted measures of greater than the standard error of measurement.

CONCLUSIONS: DIF by sensory impairment in cognitive tests was independent of administration characteristics, which could indicate that elevated cognitive load among persons with sensory impairment plays a larger role in test performance than previously acknowledged. While these results were unexpected, neither of these samples are nationally representative and each has unique selection factors; thus, replication is critical.

DOI10.1017/S1355617721000400
Alternate JournalJ Int Neuropsychol Soc
PubMed ID33896441
Grant ListR01 AG052412 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R21 AG060243 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
U01 HL096812 / HL / NHLBI NIH HHS / United States