The United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. Over 130 people are dying every day from an overdose. But what you may not be aware of is that there is a disturbing 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 team 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 analyzing approximately 86,000 respondents, they found this link is stronger the younger the individual is. Unfortunately, it’s still unclear what causes that link to begin with.
Here’s what was discovered by this research:
- Individuals who developed hearing loss between the ages of 35-49 were twice as likely to develop general substance abuse problems than their peers.
- People who developed loss of hearing over the age of fifty did not differ from their peers in terms of substance abuse rates.
- People were at least two times as likely to misuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were less than fifty. Other things, such as alcohol, were also more likely to be abused by this group.
Solutions and Hope
Because researchers have already taken into account economics and class so those figures are especially staggering. We need to do something about it, though, now that we have recognized a connection. Keep in mind, causation is not correlation so without knowing the exact cause, it will be hard to directly address the issue. A couple of theories have been put forward by researchers:
- Social isolation: 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, 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.
- Lack of communication: Emergency medical departments are designed to respond to people, treat them, and get them out as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as possible. And if there is a life threatening emergency they can be in even more of a hurry than usual. In cases such as this, a patient might not get proper treatment because they can’t hear questions and instructions properly. They may agree to suggestions of pain medicine without fully listening to the concerns, or they might mishear dosage instructions.
- Medications that are ototoxic: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
Whether these situations increase loss of hearing, or those with hearing loss are more likely to have them, the harmful repercussions to your health are the same.
Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse
It’s recommended by the writers of the study, that communications protocols be kept current by doctors and emergency departments. Put another way, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the signs of hearing loss in younger individuals. We individuals don’t seek help when we need to and that would also be extremely helpful.
Don’t be scared to ask questions of your doctors such as:
- Is this drug addictive? Is there an alternative medication that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I truly need this one.
- Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this medication? Are there alternatives?
Never go home from a doctors appointment with medications unless you are crystal clear on their dangers, how they should be taken and how they affect your overall health.
Additionally, don’t wait to be tested if suspect that you are already suffering from hearing loss. Neglecting your hearing loss for only two years can increase your health care costs by 26%. So schedule an appointment now to have a hearing test.