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

The US. is having an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. Overdoses are killing over 130 individuals on a daily basis. But what you might not be aware of is that there is a disturbing 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 team at the University of Michigan, there’s a connection between those under fifty who are suffering from hearing loss and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

Roughly 86,000 individuals took part in the study and it was discovered that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. Unfortunately, it’s still unclear what causes that link to begin with.

Here’s what was discovered by this study:

  • 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 who developed hearing loss under the age of fifty were at least two times as likely to abuse opioids as their peers. They were also generally more likely to abuse other things, such as alcohol.
  • In terms of hearing loss, people over the age of fifty who developed hearing loss were not different from their peers in terms of substance abuse.

Hope and Solutions

Because experts have already taken into consideration class and economics so those numbers are particularly staggering. So, now that we’ve identified a relationship, we have to do something about it, right? Well, that can be a problem without knowing the exact cause (remember: correlation is not causation). Researchers did have a couple of theories:

  • Social solitude: 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, especially if the individual in question doesn’t really understand the cause–he or she may not even realizethat hearing loss is the issue.
  • Ototoxic medications: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
  • Lack of communication: Processing as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are meant to do. Sometimes they are in a hurry, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In situations like this, a patient might not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions very well. They may agree to suggestions of pain medicine without fully listening to the risks, or they might mishear dosage directions.
  • Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.

Whether these occurrences increase loss of hearing, or that they are more likely to occur to those with loss of hearing, the negative consequences are the same to your health.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

It’s recommended by the writers of the study, that communications standards be kept current by doctors and emergency responders. It would be helpful if doctors were on the lookout for individuals with loss of hearing, in other words. But it would also help if we as individuals were more aware of some of the signs of hearing loss, too, and sought help when we need it.

The following question need to be asked of your doctor:

  • Is this medication addictive? Do I really need it, or is there an alternative medicine available that is less dangerous?
  • Is this drug ototoxic? Are there alternatives?

If you are unsure of how a medication will affect your general health, what the dangers are and how they should be taken, you shouldn’t leave the office with them.

Additionally, don’t wait to get tested if think that you are already suffering from loss of hearing. Neglecting your hearing loss for only two years can increase your health care costs by 26%. 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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