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

You’re probably aware that the United States is facing an opioid crisis. Overdoses are killing over 130 individuals every day. 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 conducted 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.

Roughly 86,000 individuals participated in the study and it was discovered that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. What causes the connection to begin with, regrettably, is still not clear.

Here’s what this specific research found:

  • In terms of hearing loss, people above the age of fifty who developed hearing loss were not different from their peers when it comes to substance abuse.
  • Individuals who developed hearing loss when they were the ages of 35 and 49 were twice as likely to develop general substance abuse issues than their peers.
  • People were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were less than fifty. Other things, like alcohol, were also more likely to be misused by this group.

Hope and Solutions

Because experts have already accounted for economics and class so those figures are especially staggering. 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 did have a couple of theories:

  • Lack of communication: Processing as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are designed to do. 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 proper treatment because they can’t hear questions and instructions properly. They might not hear dosage advise or other medication instructions.
  • Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • Social solitude: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In situations like these, self-medication can be relatively common, especially if the individual in question doesn’t really understand the cause–he or she may not even realizethat hearing loss is the issue.
  • Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.

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

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

The authors of the study suggest that doctors and emergency departments work very hard to ensure that their communication methods are current and being followed. It would be helpful if doctors were on the lookout for individuals with loss of hearing, in other words. But it would also help if we as individuals were more aware of some of the symptoms of hearing loss, too, and sought help when we need it.

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

  • Will I get addicted to this medicine? Do I actually need it, or is there an alternative medicine available that is less dangerous?
  • Is this drug ototoxic? Are there alternatives?

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

In addition, don’t wait to get tested if suspect that you are already suffering from loss of hearing. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will increase your health care costs by 26%. So make an appointment now to have a hearing test.

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