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

The United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. Over 130 people are dying every day from an overdose. There is a connection, which you may not have heard about, between drug and alcohol abuse and hearing loss.

According to new research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and carried out by a team from the University of Michigan, there’s a link between those under the age of fifty who suffer from loss of hearing and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

After evaluating around 86,000 participants, they found this link is stronger the younger the individual is. What causes the connection to begin with, regrettably, is still not clear.

Here’s what was discovered by this study:

  • People who developed hearing loss over fifty did not differ from their peers when it comes to substance abuse rates.
  • Individuals who developed hearing loss when they were the ages of 35-49 were twice as likely to develop general substance abuse issues than their peers.
  • People were at least two times as likely to abuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were less than fifty. Other things, like alcohol, were also inclined to be abused by this group.

Solutions and Hope

Those numbers are staggering, particularly because researchers have already accounted for concerns like class and economics. So, now that we’ve recognized a relationship, we need to do something about it, right? Well, that can be a problem without knowing the exact cause (remember: causation is not correlation). Researchers did have a couple of theories:

  • Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. 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. And if there is a life threatening emergency they can be in even more of a rush than usual. In cases like this, a patient may not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions very well. They might agree to recommendations of pain medicine without fully listening to the concerns, or they may mishear dosage instructions.
  • Medications that are ototoxic: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • Social isolation: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. In situations like these, it’s common for people to self medicate, especially if the individual in question doesn’t really understand the cause–he or she may not even realizethat hearing loss is the issue.

Whether hearing loss is increased by these situations, or those with loss of hearing are more likely to have them, the harmful consequences are the same to your health.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

It’s suggested by the writers of the study, that communications protocols be kept current by doctors and emergency responders. It would be helpful if doctors were on the lookout for people with loss of hearing, in other words. We individuals don’t seek help when we should and that would also be very helpful.

The following question should be asked of your doctor:

  • Will I become addicted to this medicine? Do I really need it, or is there a different medication available that is less dangerous?
  • Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this drug? Are there alternate options?

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

Additionally, if you suspect you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait to get checked. Neglecting your hearing loss for just two years can pay 26% more for your health care. So schedule an appointment now to have your hearing tested.

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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