Research Reveals a Link Between Hearing Loss And Substance Abuse

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

The US. is having an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. Overdoses are killing more than 130 people every day. There is a connection, which you may not be aware of, 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 alcohol and drug abuse and those under fifty who have loss of hearing.

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

Here’s what was discovered by this study:

  • 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. They were also usually more likely to misuse other things, such as alcohol.
  • 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 two times 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 numbers are shocking, particularly because researchers have already accounted for issues such as economics and class. So, now that we’ve recognized a connection, we need to do something about it, right? Keep in mind, causation is not correlation so without knowing the exact cause, it will be difficult to directly deal with the issue. Researchers had a couple of theories:

  • Ototoxic medications: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
  • Lack of communication: Emergency departments are designed to respond to people, deal with them, and process them as efficiently (or, in many cases, quickly) as possible. Sometimes they are in a rush, particularly if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these cases, if patients aren’t capable of communicating well, say they can’t hear questions or instructions from the staff, they might not receive proper treatment. They may agree to recommendations of pain medication without fully understanding the risks, or they might mishear dosage instructions.
  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.
  • Social solitude: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. 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.

Whether hearing loss is increased by these incidents, or those with loss of hearing are more likely to have them, the negative consequences are the same to your health.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

The authors of the research recommend that doctors and emergency departments work extra hard to ensure that their communication protocols are current and being followed. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for people with loss of hearing, in other words. 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 nervous to ask questions of your doctors such as:

  • Will I get addicted to this medicine? Do I really need it, or is there a different medicine available that is safer?
  • Is this drug ototoxic? Are there alternate options?

If you are unsure of how a medicine will impact your general health, what the dangers are and how they should be used, you should not leave the office with them.

Also, don’t wait to get tested if think that you are already suffering from hearing loss. Ignoring your hearing loss for only two years can increase your health care costs by 26%. Schedule a hearing test right away.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.


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