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

You’re probably aware that the United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis. More than 130 people are dying every day from an overdose. There is a link, which you might not be aware of, between drug and alcohol abuse and loss of hearing.

According to new research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and conducted by a group from 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.

After evaluating nearly 86,000 respondents, they found this link is stronger the younger the person is. What causes the connection in the first place, regrettably, is still not well understood.

Here’s what this particular study found:

  • When it comes to hearing loss, people over 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 under the age of fifty. They were also usually more likely to abuse other substances, such as alcohol.
  • 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

Because scientists have already accounted for economics and class so those numbers are especially shocking. So, now that we’ve recognized a relationship, we have to do something about it, right? Remember, correlation is not causation so without understanding the exact cause, it will be hard to directly address the issue. Researchers had a couple of theories:

  • Social isolation: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In these situations, 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.
  • Lack of communication: Processing as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are meant to do. And if there is a life threatening emergency they can be in even more of a rush than usual. In situations like this, a patient might not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and instructions very well. They might agree to recommendations of pain medicine without fully listening to the risks, or they may mishear dosage directions.
  • Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.

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

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

The authors of the research suggest that doctors and emergency responders work very hard to make sure that their communication methods are current and being implemented. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for people with hearing loss, in other words. We individuals don’t seek help when we should and that would also be very helpful.

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

  • Will I become addicted to this medicine? Is there a different medicine that is safer for my hearing, or do I truly 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 dangers, what the dosage schedule is and how they influence your general health.

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