Research Reveals a Connection Between Loss of Hearing And Substance Abuse

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

The US. is having an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. More than 130 people are dying every day from an overdose. 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 conducted by a team from 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.

After evaluating around 86,000 respondents, they found this link is stronger the younger the individual is. What causes the connection to begin with, regrettably, is still not well understood.

Here’s what this particular study found:

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

Hope and Solutions

Those figures are shocking, especially because experts have already accounted for issues such as class and economics. So, now that we’ve recognized a relationship, we have to do something about it, right? Keep in mind, correlation is not causation so without understanding the exact cause, it will be difficult to directly address the problem. Researchers did have a couple of theories:

  • Lack of communication: Getting people in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are meant to do. Sometimes they are in a rush, particularly if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these situations, if patients aren’t able to communicate very well, say they can’t hear questions or directions from the staff, they might not get correct treatment. They may not hear dosage information or other medication guidelines.
  • 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.
  • Ototoxic medications: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
  • 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, especially if the individual in question doesn’t really understand the cause–he or she may not even realizethat hearing loss is the issue.

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

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

The authors of the study recommend that doctors and emergency departments work very hard to make sure that their communication protocols are up to date and being implemented. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for people with hearing loss, in other words. We individuals don’t seek help when we need to and that would also be extremely helpful.

The following question should be asked of your doctor:

  • Will I become addicted to this medicine? Do I actually need it, or is there an alternative medicine available that is safer?
  • Is this drug ototoxic? Are there alternate options?

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

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

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive a personalized free hearing test and hearing loss consultation, call today to set up an appointment.