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

The US. is in the midst of an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. 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 conducted by a group at 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 evaluating approximately 86,000 respondents, they found this connection is stronger the younger the person is. Regrettably, it’s still not well known what causes that connection in the first place.

Here’s what was discovered by this research:

  • People who developed hearing loss under the age of fifty were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids as their peers. Other things, like alcohol, were also more likely to be abused by this group.
  • People were twice as likely to develop a general substance abuse problem than their peers if they got hearing loss when they were between the ages of 35 and 49.
  • People who developed loss of hearing over the age of fifty did not differ from their peers when it comes to substance abuse rates.

Solutions and Hope

Those numbers are shocking, especially because scientists have already accounted for concerns like economics and class. So, now that we’ve identified a connection, we have to do something about it, right? Remember, causation is not correlation so without understanding the exact cause, it will be hard to directly address the issue. 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, 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.
  • Lack of communication: Processing as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are meant to do. Sometimes they are in a hurry, particularly if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these cases, if patients aren’t able to communicate well, say they can’t hear questions or instructions from the staff, they might not get correct treatment. They might agree to recommendations of pain medication without completely listening to the risks, or they might mishear dosage instructions.
  • Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, 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.
  • Medications that are ototoxic: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.

Whether hearing loss is increased by these incidents, or those with loss of hearing are more likely to have them, 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 departments work extra hard to ensure that their communication methods are up to date and being followed. In other words, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the symptoms of hearing loss in younger people. 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.

The following question should be asked of your doctor:

  • Is this medication addictive? Do I really need it, or is there a different medicine available that is less dangerous?
  • Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this drug? What are the alternate options?

Never go home from a doctors appointment with medicines unless you are crystal clear on their dangers, how they should be taken and how they impact your general health.

In addition, if you believe you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait to be checked. Neglecting your hearing loss for just two years can pay 26% more for your health care. Schedule a hearing test today.

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.