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

The US. is facing an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. Over 130 people are dying daily from an overdose. There is a link, which you might not have heard about, 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 team from the University of Michigan, there’s a connection between those under the age of fifty who are suffering from hearing loss and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

Approximately 86,000 people participated in the study and it was discovered that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. What causes the connection in the first place, regrettably, is still not well understood.

Here’s what this specific study found:

  • People who developed hearing loss under the age of fifty were at least two times as likely to abuse opioids than their peers. They were also generally more likely to abuse other things, such as alcohol.
  • People who developed loss of hearing over fifty did not differ from their peers when it comes to substance abuse rates.
  • People were two times as likely to develop a general substance abuse problem than their peers if they got hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49.

Solutions and Hope

Those figures are staggering, especially because scientists have already taken into account issues such as economics and class. We have to do something about it, though, now that we have recognized a connection. Well, that can be a problem without understanding the exact cause (remember: correlation is not causation). Researchers had a couple of theories:

  • Social solitude: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In situations like these, it’s common for people to self medicate, especially if the individual in question doesn’t really understand the cause–he or she may not even realizethat hearing loss is the issue.
  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
  • Ototoxic medications: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
  • 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 hurry than usual. In these cases, if patients aren’t able to communicate very well, say they can’t hear questions or instructions from the staff, they may not get proper treatment. They might agree to recommendations of pain medicine without completely listening to the risks, or they may mishear dosage directions.

Whether these occurrences increase loss of hearing, or that they are more likely to occur to those with loss of hearing, the negative consequences to your health are the same.

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

It’s recommended by the authors of the study, that communications protocols be kept up to date by doctors and emergency responders. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for individuals with hearing loss, in other words. We individuals don’t get help when we need to and that would also be extremely helpful.

The following question should be asked of your doctor:

  • Will I get addicted to this drug? Do I really need it, or is there an alternative medicine available that is less dangerous?
  • Is this drug ototoxic? Are there alternate options?

Never leave a doctor’s office with medicines unless you are completely clear on their dangers, what the dosage schedule is and how they impact your overall health.

In addition, if you believe you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait to get checked. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will pay 26% more for your health care. So schedule an appointment now to have your hearing tested.