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

The US. is in the midst of an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. Over 130 people are dying daily from an overdose. There is a link, which you may not have heard about, between drug and alcohol abuse and loss of hearing.

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 connection between alcohol and drug abuse and people under fifty who suffer from hearing loss.

After analyzing roughly 86,000 respondents, they found this link is stronger the younger the person is. What causes the link in the first place, regrettably, is still not well understood.

Here’s what was found by this research:

  • In terms of hearing loss, people over the age of fifty who developed hearing loss didn’t differ from their peers when it comes to substance abuse.
  • People who developed hearing loss under the age of fifty were at least two times as likely to misuse opioids than their peers. Other things, such as alcohol, were also more likely to be misused by this group.
  • 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.

Hope and Solutions

Because researchers have already taken into consideration economics and class so those numbers are particularly staggering. We need to do something about it, though, now that we have recognized a relationship. Keep in mind, correlation is not causation so without understanding the exact cause, it will be difficult to directly deal with the issue. Researchers had a couple of theories:

  • Medications that are ototoxic: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
  • Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
  • Lack of communication: Processing as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are designed to do. And if there is a life threatening emergency they can be in even more of a rush than usual. In these situations, if patients aren’t able to communicate very well, say they can’t hear questions or instructions from the staff, they might not get proper treatment. They might not hear dosage information or other medication instructions.
  • Social isolation: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In these situations, self-medication can be relatively common, 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 that they are more likely to happen to those with hearing loss, the negative repercussions to your health are the same.

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

It’s recommended by the writers of the study, that communications standards be kept up to date by doctors and emergency departments. 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 aware of some of the signs of hearing loss, too, and sought out help when we need it.

The following question should be asked of your doctor:

  • Will I get addicted to this medication? Do I really need it, or is there an alternative medication available that is less dangerous?
  • Is this medication ototoxic? What are the alternatives?

If you are unsure of how a medication will impact your overall health, what the dangers are and how they should be used, you shouldn’t take then home.

Additionally, don’t wait to be tested if suspect that you might already be suffering from loss of hearing. 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.

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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