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

The United States is facing an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. Overdoses are killing over 130 individuals on a daily basis. There is a connection, which you might not have heard about, between drug and alcohol abuse and hearing loss.

According to new research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and carried out by a group at 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 individuals took part in the study and it was found that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. Regrettably, it’s still unclear what causes that connection in the first place.

Here’s what this particular research found:

  • People who developed hearing loss over the age of fifty were not different from their peers when it comes to substance abuse rates.
  • People were twice as likely to develop a general substance abuse problem than their peers if they got hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49.
  • People who developed hearing loss under the age of fifty were at least two times as likely to misuse opioids as their peers. They were also usually more likely to abuse other substances, like alcohol.

Solutions and Hope

Those numbers are shocking, particularly because scientists have already accounted for concerns such as economics and class. We have to do something about it, though, now that we have identified a connection. Well, that can be a problem without knowing the exact cause (remember: correlation is not causation). Researchers did have a couple of theories:

  • Lack of communication: Processing as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are designed to do. Sometimes they are in a hurry, particularly if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these situations, if patients aren’t capable of communicating well, say they can’t hear questions or instructions from the staff, they may not receive proper treatment. They may agree to recommendations of pain medicine without fully listening to the concerns, or they may mishear dosage directions.
  • Social isolation: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In situations like these, 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: 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 situations, or that they are more likely to happen to those with hearing loss, the negative repercussions are the same to your health.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

The authors of the research suggest that doctors and emergency departments work extra hard to ensure that their communication standards are current and being implemented. It would be helpful if doctors were on the lookout for individuals with hearing loss, in other words. We individuals don’t seek help when we should and that would also be very helpful.

The following question should be asked of your doctor:

  • Will I get addicted to this medicine? Is there a different medicine that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I truly need this one.
  • Is this medication ototoxic? Are there alternatives?

If you are unsure of how a medication will impact your general health, what the risk are and how they should be taken, you should not take then home.

In addition, if you suspect you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait to be tested. Ignoring your hearing loss for only two years can pay 26% more for your health care. So schedule an appointment now to have a hearing test.

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