You’re probably aware that the United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis. Over 130 people are dying daily from an overdose. There is a connection, 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 group at the University of Michigan, there’s a link between those under the age of fifty who are suffering from hearing loss and abuse of alcohol or other substances.
After evaluating approximately 86,000 respondents, they found this link is stronger the younger the person is. What causes the link in the first place, unfortunately, is still not well understood.
Here’s what this specific study found:
- 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.
- People who developed loss of hearing over the age of fifty were not different from their peers when it comes to substance abuse rates.
- People were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were less than fifty. They were also generally more likely to abuse other substances, like alcohol.
Hope and Solutions
Those numbers are staggering, especially because researchers have already taken into account concerns like economics and class. We have to do something about it, though, now that we have identified a relationship. Well, that can be a problem without knowing the exact cause (remember: causation is not correlation). A couple of theories have been put forward by scientists:
- Medications that are ototoxic: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
- Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure 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.
- Lack of communication: Emergency departments are designed to get people in, treat 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 normal. In situations such as this, a patient might not get proper treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions properly. They may agree to recommendations of pain medicine without fully listening to the risks, or they may mishear dosage directions.
Whether hearing loss is increased by these situations, or that they are more likely to happen to those with hearing loss, the negative repercussions are the same to your health.
Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse
The authors of the research suggest that doctors and emergency responders work extra hard to ensure that their communication standards 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 seek help when we need to and that would also be very helpful.
Don’t be nervous to ask questions of your doctors such as:
- Will I become addicted to this drug? Do I actually need it, or is there an alternative medication available that is less dangerous?
- Is this drug ototoxic? Are there alternatives?
Never leave a doctor’s office with medications unless you are completely clear on their risks, how they should be taken and how they influence your overall health.
Also, don’t wait to be tested if suspect that you are already suffering from hearing loss. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will pay 26% more for your health care. Schedule a hearing examination today.