Research Shows a Link Between Hearing Loss And Substance Abuse

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. Over 130 people are dying every day from an overdose. There is a link, which you may 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 team from the University of Michigan, there’s a connection between those under fifty who are suffering from loss of hearing and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

After analyzing nearly 86,000 participants, they found this link is stronger the younger the individual is. Sadly, it’s still unclear what causes that link in the first place.

Here’s what was discovered by this study:

  • People who developed loss of hearing over fifty did not differ from their peers in terms of substance abuse rates.
  • People were at least twice as likely to misuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were under the age of fifty. Other substances, such as alcohol, were also more likely to be misused by this group.
  • 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.

Solutions and Hope

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

  • Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
  • Social solitude: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In situations like these, 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.
  • Lack of communication: Emergency departments are designed to get people in, deal with them, and get them out as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as they can. And if there is a life threatening emergency they can be in even more of a rush than usual. In these situations, if patients aren’t capable of communicating very well, say they aren’t able to hear questions or directions from the staff, they may not get proper treatment. They might agree to suggestions of pain medicine without fully listening to the risks, or they might mishear dosage directions.
  • Medications that are ototoxic: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.

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

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

The authors of the study suggest that doctors and emergency responders work extra hard to make sure that their communication protocols are current and being implemented. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for individuals with hearing loss, in other words. We individuals don’t get help when we should and that would also be extremely helpful.

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

  • Will I become addicted to this medicine? Do I really need it, or is there an alternative medication available that is less dangerous?
  • Will I have an ototoxic response to this drug? Are there alternatives?

Never go home from a doctors appointment with medications unless you are completely clear on their dangers, what the dosage schedule is and how they affect your general health.

Additionally, if you suspect you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait to get tested. Ignoring your hearing loss for only two years can increase your health care costs by 26%. Schedule a hearing examination today.

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