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

More than likely you are aware that the US . is in the midst of an opioid crisis. More than 130 people are dying every day from an overdose. But what you may not be aware of is that there is a troubling connection between loss of hearing and drug and alcohol abuse.

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 connection between those under the age of fifty who are suffering from loss of hearing and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

After evaluating nearly 86,000 participants, they found this connection is stronger the younger the individual is. What causes the connection to begin with, unfortunately, is still not clear.

Here’s what was discovered by this research:

  • When it comes to hearing loss, people over the age of fifty who developed hearing loss didn’t differ from their peers in terms of substance abuse.
  • People who developed hearing loss when they were younger than fifty were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids as their peers. Other things, such as alcohol, were also inclined to be abused by this group.
  • People were twice as likely to develop a general substance abuse issue than their peers if they got hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49.

Solutions and Hope

Those figures are staggering, especially because experts have already taken into account concerns like class and economics. We need to do something about it, though, now that we have identified a relationship. Keep in mind, causation is not correlation so without understanding the exact cause, it will be difficult to directly address the problem. A couple of theories have been put forward by experts:

  • Lack of communication: Emergency medical departments are designed to get people in, deal with them, and process them 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 cases like this, a patient may not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions properly. They might agree to suggestions of pain medicine without completely understanding the risks, or they may mishear dosage directions.
  • Medications that are ototoxic: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • 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, and if the person doesn’t understand that hearing loss is an issue or what the cause is, this is especially true.
  • Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.

Whether these situations increase loss of hearing, or those with loss of hearing are more likely to have them, the negative repercussions are the same to your health.

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

It’s recommended by the authors of the study, that communications standards be kept current by doctors and emergency departments. In other words, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the symptoms of hearing loss in younger individuals. We individuals don’t seek help when we should and that would also be extremely helpful.

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

  • Will I become addicted to this medication? Do I actually need it, or is there an alternative medication available that is safer?
  • Will I have an ototoxic response to this drug? Are there alternatives?

If you are unsure of how a medication will impact your overall health, what the dangers are and how they should be taken, you shouldn’t take then home.

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

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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