Young man with hearing loss drinking more alcohol than he should.

You’re probably aware that the United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis. More than 130 people are dying each day from an overdose. But what you may not have heard yet is that there is a troubling link between loss of hearing and drug and alcohol abuse.

According to new research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and conducted by a group at the University of Michigan, there’s a link between alcohol and drug abuse and people under fifty who have loss of hearing.

Approximately 86,000 individuals participated in the study and it was found that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. Sadly, it’s still unclear what causes that link to begin with.

Here’s what this particular research found:

  • People were two times as likely to develop a general substance abuse problem than their peers if they got hearing loss when they were between the ages of 35 and 49.
  • People who developed hearing loss over the age of fifty did not differ from their peers in terms of substance abuse rates.
  • People who developed hearing loss when they were younger than fifty were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids as their peers. They were also usually more likely to misuse other substances, such as alcohol.

Hope and Solutions

Because experts have already accounted for class and economics so those numbers are particularly shocking. We have to do something about it, though, now that we have identified a relationship. Well, that can be a problem without knowing the exact cause (remember: correlation is not causation). A couple of theories have been put forward by researchers:

  • Social isolation: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. In these situations, it’s common for people to self medicate, and if the person doesn’t understand that hearing loss is an issue or what the cause is, this is especially true.
  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
  • Lack of communication: Getting people in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are meant to do. Sometimes they are in a rush, particularly if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In cases like this, a patient may not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions properly. They might not hear dosage information or other medication guidelines.
  • Medications that are ototoxic: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.

Whether these situations increase hearing loss, or those with hearing loss are more likely to have them, the negative consequences to your health are the same.

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

The authors of the research suggest that doctors and emergency responders work extra hard to ensure that their communication protocols are up to date and being implemented. It would be helpful if doctors were on the lookout for people with loss of hearing, in other words. But it would also help if we as individuals were more mindful of some of the symptoms of hearing loss, too, and sought out help when we need it.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your doctors such as:

  • Is this medication addictive? Is there a different medication that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I truly need this one.
  • Is this medication ototoxic? Are there alternate options?

Never leave a doctor’s office with medications unless you are crystal clear on their risks, what the dosage schedule is and how they affect your overall health.

In addition, don’t wait to be tested if suspect that you might already be suffering from hearing loss. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will pay 26% more for your health care. Schedule a hearing exam today.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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