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

You most likely are aware that the US . is having an opioid crisis. Overdoses are killing more than 130 people each day. But what you may not have heard yet is that there is a disturbing link between hearing loss and drug and alcohol abuse.

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

After evaluating nearly 86,000 respondents, they found this connection is stronger the younger the person is. Sadly, it’s still unclear what causes that link to begin with.

Here’s what was found by this study:

  • People who developed hearing loss when they were the ages of 35-49 were two times as likely to develop general substance abuse problems than their peers.
  • People who developed hearing loss when they were younger than fifty were at least twice as likely to misuse opioids as their peers. They were also generally more likely to misuse other substances, such as alcohol.
  • People who developed hearing loss over fifty were not different from their peers in terms of substance abuse rates.

Hope and Solutions

Because researchers have already accounted for economics and class so those figures are particularly shocking. So, now that we’ve identified a relationship, we need to do something about it, right? Keep in mind, causation is not correlation so without knowing the exact cause, it will be hard to directly address the issue. Researchers did have a couple of theories:

  • Social isolation: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. 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.
  • Lack of communication: Processing 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 normal. In situations like this, a patient might not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions properly. They might agree to recommendations of pain medication without completely understanding the risks, or they might mishear dosage instructions.
  • 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.
  • Medications that are ototoxic: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.

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

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

It’s suggested by the writers of the study, that communications standards be kept up to date by doctors and emergency departments. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for individuals with loss of hearing, in other words. We individuals don’t get help when we need to and that would also be extremely helpful.

The following question should be asked of your doctor:

  • Is this medication addictive? Do I actually need it, or is there an alternative medication available that is safer?
  • Will I have an ototoxic response to this drug? Are there 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 impact your overall health.

In addition, if you believe you have hearing loss, don’t wait to be checked. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will increase your health care expenses by 26%. So make an appointment now to have a hearing test.

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