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

The US. is facing an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. Overdoses are killing more than 130 individuals each day. There is a connection, which you may not be aware of, 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 those under the age of fifty who suffer from hearing loss and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

After evaluating approximately 86,000 participants, they found this link is stronger the younger the person is. Unfortunately, it’s still not well known what causes that connection in the first place.

Here’s what was discovered by this research:

  • 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 usually more likely to abuse other substances, like alcohol.
  • People who developed loss of hearing over the age of fifty did not differ from their peers when it comes to substance abuse rates.
  • Individuals who developed hearing loss when they were the ages of 35 and 49 were twice as likely to develop general substance abuse problems than their peers.

Solutions and Hope

Because scientists have already taken into account economics and class so those numbers are especially shocking. So, now that we’ve identified a relationship, we need to do something about it, right? Well, that can be difficult without knowing the exact cause (remember: causation is not correlation). Researchers had a couple of theories:

  • Social isolation: 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, and if the person doesn’t understand that hearing loss is an issue or what the cause is, this is especially true.
  • Ototoxic medications: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.
  • Lack of communication: Emergency medical departments are designed to get people in, deal with them, and get them out as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as possible. Sometimes they are in a rush, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these situations, if patients aren’t able to communicate very well, say they can’t hear questions or directions from the staff, they might not receive correct treatment. They may agree to suggestions of pain medication without fully understanding the risks, or they may mishear dosage instructions.

Whether these occurrences increase loss of hearing, or those with hearing loss 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 responders work extra hard to make sure that their communication methods are current and being implemented. 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 mindful of some of the symptoms of hearing loss, too, and got help when we need it.

The following question should be asked of your doctor:

  • Is this medication addictive? Do I actually need it, or is there an alternative medicine available that is safer?
  • Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this medication? What are the alternatives?

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

In addition, if you think you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait to be checked. Neglecting your hearing loss for only two years can increase your health care costs by 26%. So make an appointment now to have a hearing test.

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