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

More than likely you are aware that the United States is having an opioid crisis. Over 130 people are dying every day from an overdose. But what you may not be aware of 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 carried out by a group from the University of Michigan, there’s a connection between alcohol and drug abuse and those under fifty who suffer from loss of hearing.

Approximately 86,000 people took part in the study and it was found that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. Unfortunately, it’s still not well known what causes that connection to begin with.

Here’s what was discovered by this study:

  • In terms of hearing loss, people above the age of fifty who developed hearing loss were not different from their peers when it comes to substance abuse.
  • People who developed hearing loss when they were the ages of 35 and 49 were twice as likely to develop general substance abuse issues than their peers.
  • People were at least twice as likely to misuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were less than fifty. They were also usually more likely to misuse other things, like alcohol.

Solutions and Hope

Because researchers have already accounted for economics and class so those figures are especially shocking. We have to do something about it, though, now that we have recognized a relationship. Keep in mind, causation is not correlation so without knowing the exact cause, it will be hard to directly address the issue. A couple of theories have been put forward by scientists:

  • Social solitude: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. 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.
  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
  • Lack of communication: Emergency departments are designed to get people in, deal with them, and get them out as efficiently (or, in many cases, quickly) as they can. Sometimes they are in a hurry, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these cases, if patients aren’t capable of communicating very well, say they aren’t able to hear questions or directions from the staff, they might not get proper treatment. They may agree to recommendations of pain medication without completely understanding the concerns, or they may mishear dosage instructions.
  • Ototoxic medications: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.

Whether hearing loss is increased by these incidents, or that they are more likely to happen to those with loss of hearing, the harmful repercussions are the same to your health.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

It’s recommended by the writers of the study, that communications protocols be kept up to date by doctors and emergency responders. Put another way, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the symptoms of hearing loss in younger individuals. We individuals don’t get help when we need to and that would also be very helpful.

The following question need to be asked of your doctor:

  • Will I become addicted to this medicine? Is there an alternative medication that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I truly need this one.
  • Is this drug ototoxic? What are the alternate options?

Never go home from a doctors appointment with medications unless you are crystal clear on their risks, how they should be taken and how they impact your general health.

Additionally, 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 costs by 26%. Schedule a hearing test today.

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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