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

More than likely you are aware that the US . is facing an opioid crisis. Overdoses are killing over 130 people on a daily basis. There is a link, which you might 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 conducted by a team from the University of Michigan, there’s a connection between alcohol and drug abuse and those under fifty who suffer from loss of hearing.

Nearly 86,000 individuals took part in the study and it was found that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. Unfortunately, it’s still unclear what causes that connection to begin with.

Here’s what this specific study found:

  • People were two times as likely to develop a general substance abuse issue than their peers if they got hearing loss when they were between the ages of 35 and 49.
  • People who developed hearing loss under the age of fifty were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids than their peers. They were also generally more likely to abuse other things, such as alcohol.
  • When it comes to hearing loss, people over the age of fifty who developed hearing loss were not different from their peers in terms of substance abuse.

Solutions and Hope

Because scientists have already accounted for class and economics so those figures are especially staggering. So, now that we’ve identified a connection, 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: Emergency departments are designed to respond to people, treat them, and process them as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as possible. Sometimes they are in a hurry, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In cases like this, a patient might not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and instructions properly. They might agree to suggestions of pain medication without completely understanding the risks, or they might mishear dosage directions.
  • Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
  • Social isolation: 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.
  • Medications that are ototoxic: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.

Whether loss of hearing is made worse by these situations, or those with hearing loss are more likely to have them, the damaging consequences are the same to your health.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

It’s suggested by the writers of the study, that communications protocols be kept current by doctors and emergency departments. In other words, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the symptoms of hearing loss in younger individuals. 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.

Don’t be scared to ask questions of your doctors such as:

  • Is this medication addictive? Do I actually need it, or is there an alternative medication available that is less dangerous?
  • Is this drug ototoxic? What are the alternatives?

Never leave a doctor’s office with medications unless you are crystal clear on their dangers, how they should be taken and how they impact your general health.

In addition, if you suspect you have hearing loss, don’t wait to get checked. Ignoring your hearing loss for just two years can increase your health care costs by 26%. Schedule a hearing exam right away.

Call or text for a no-obligation evaluation.

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