The United States is facing an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. More than 130 people are dying each day from an overdose. But what you might not have heard yet is that there is a disturbing link between hearing loss and drug and alcohol abuse.
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 hearing loss and abuse of alcohol or other substances.
Approximately 86,000 individuals participated in the study and it was found that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. Sadly, it’s still unclear what causes that link to begin with.
Here’s what this particular research found:
- In terms of hearing loss, people above the age of fifty who developed hearing loss didn’t differ from their peers when it comes to substance abuse.
- People were at least twice as likely to misuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were less than fifty. Other substances, such as alcohol, were also more likely to be abused by this group.
- People who developed hearing loss between the ages of 35-49 were twice as likely to develop general substance abuse problems than their peers.
Solutions and Hope
Those figures are shocking, especially because scientists have already taken into account concerns such as class and economics. So, now that we’ve identified a relationship, we have to do something about it, right? Well, that can be difficult without knowing the exact cause (remember: correlation is not causation). Researchers did have 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, 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 blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to unhealthy levels. 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 respond to people, deal with them, and process them as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as they can. Sometimes they are in a hurry, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these cases, if patients aren’t capable of communicating very well, say they can’t hear questions or directions from the staff, they might not receive proper treatment. They might not hear dosage information or other medication directions.
- Medications that are ototoxic: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
Whether loss of hearing is made worse by these situations, or that they are more likely to occur to those with hearing loss, the harmful repercussions to your health are the same.
Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it
It’s suggested by the authors of the study, that communications standards be kept current by doctors and emergency departments. It would be helpful if doctors were on the lookout for individuals with hearing loss, in other words. We individuals don’t get help when we should and that would also be extremely helpful.
The following question need to be asked of your doctor:
- Is this medication addictive? Is there a different medicine that is safer for my hearing, or do I really need this one.
- Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this drug? What are the alternate options?
Never leave a doctor’s office with medications unless you are crystal clear on their risks, what the dosage schedule is and how they affect your general health.
Additionally, if you think you have hearing loss, don’t wait to get checked. Ignoring your hearing loss for only two years can pay 26% more for your health care. So make an appointment now to have your hearing tested.