Research Shows a Connection Between Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss

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. Overdoses are killing over 130 people daily. But what you might not be aware of 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 team from the University of Michigan, there’s a link between alcohol and drug abuse and people under fifty who have hearing loss.

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

Here’s what this particular study found:

  • 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 substances, like alcohol, were also more likely to be misused by this group.
  • When it comes to hearing loss, people older than fifty who developed hearing loss didn’t differ from their peers when it comes to substance abuse.
  • People were two times 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.

Solutions and Hope

Because scientists have already taken into consideration class and economics so those figures are especially staggering. So, now that we’ve identified a connection, we have to do something about it, right? Well, that can be difficult without understanding the exact cause (remember: causation is not correlation). Researchers did have a couple of theories:

  • 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.
  • Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • 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 designed to do. And if there is a life threatening emergency they can be in even more of a rush than usual. In these situations, if patients aren’t capable of communicating well, say they can’t hear questions or directions from the staff, they may not get correct treatment. They may not hear dosage information or other medication instructions.

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

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

The authors of the study suggest that doctors and emergency responders work extra hard to make sure that their communication standards are current and being followed. It would be helpful if doctors were on the lookout for individuals with hearing loss, 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 sought help when we need it.

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

  • Is this medication addictive? Do I really need it, or is there an alternative medication available that is safer?
  • Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this drug? Are there alternatives?

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

In addition, if you suspect you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait to get tested. Neglecting your hearing loss for just two years can pay 26% more for your health care. Schedule a hearing test right away.

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.