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

The United States is facing an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. Overdoses are killing more than 130 individuals on a daily basis. But what you might not have heard yet is that there is a troubling connection 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 those under fifty who suffer from hearing loss.

After analyzing roughly 86,000 respondents, they found this connection is stronger the younger the person is. Unfortunately, it’s still not well known what causes that link in the first place.

Here’s what was found by this study:

  • People were two times as likely to develop a general substance abuse issue than their peers if they got hearing loss when they were between the ages of 35 and 49.
  • People were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were less than fifty. Other substances, like alcohol, were also more likely to be misused by this group.
  • When it comes to hearing loss, people above the age of fifty who developed hearing loss were not different from their peers when it comes to substance abuse.

Hope and Solutions

Because scientists have already accounted for economics and class so those numbers are particularly staggering. We need to do something about it, though, now that we have recognized a connection. Keep in mind, causation is not correlation so without understanding the exact cause, it will be difficult to directly deal with the problem. Researchers did have a couple of theories:

  • Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
  • Medications that are ototoxic: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • Lack of communication: Emergency departments are designed to get people in, treat them, and process them as efficiently (or, in many cases, quickly) as possible. Sometimes they are in a rush, particularly if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these situations, if patients aren’t able to communicate well, say they can’t hear questions or directions from the staff, they may not get proper treatment. They may not hear dosage advise or other medication guidelines.
  • Social isolation: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In situations like these, 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.

Whether these incidents increase hearing loss, or those with hearing loss are more likely to have them, the damaging repercussions are the same to your health.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

The authors of the study recommend that doctors and emergency departments work very hard to make sure that their communication standards are up to date and being implemented. Put another way, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the signs of hearing loss in younger individuals. We individuals don’t get help when we should and that would also be very helpful.

The following question need to be asked of your doctor:

  • Is this medication addictive? Is there an alternative medication that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I really need this one.
  • Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this medication? What are the alternatives?

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

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

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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