Hearing Health Blog

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 more than 130 people on a daily basis. But what you may not be aware of is that there is a troubling connection between hearing loss 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 link between those under fifty who suffer from loss of hearing and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

Nearly 86,000 individuals took part in the study and it was discovered that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. What causes the link in the first place, regrettably, is still not clear.

Here’s what this specific study found:

  • People were at least twice as likely to misuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were less than fifty. Other things, such as alcohol, were also more likely to be abused by this group.
  • 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 were two times as likely to develop a general substance abuse issue than their peers if they got hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49.

Solutions and Hope

Those numbers are staggering, especially because experts have already accounted for concerns such as class and economics. We need to do something about it, though, now that we have recognized a relationship. Remember, 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:

  • Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • Social isolation: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. 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.
  • 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 medical departments are designed to respond to people, treat them, and process them as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as they can. Sometimes they are in a hurry, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these situations, if patients aren’t able to communicate well, say they aren’t able to hear questions or directions from the staff, they might not get correct treatment. They may agree to suggestions of pain medicine without fully understanding the concerns, or they might mishear dosage instructions.

Whether these situations increase hearing loss, or that they are more likely to occur to those with hearing loss, the negative consequences are the same to your health.

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

The authors of the study recommend that doctors and emergency responders work very hard to ensure that their communication methods are current and being followed. In other words, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the indications of hearing loss in younger people. We individuals don’t get help when we should and that would also be extremely helpful.

The following question should be asked of your doctor:

  • Is this medication addictive? Is there an alternative medicine that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I really need this one.
  • Is this drug ototoxic? Are there alternatives?

Never go home from a doctors appointment with medications unless you are crystal clear on their risks, what the dosage schedule is and how they impact your overall health.

Also, don’t wait to be tested if suspect that you are already suffering from loss of hearing. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will increase your health care costs by 26%. Schedule a hearing exam right away.

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