Research Shows a Connection Between Loss of Hearing And Substance Abuse

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

The US. is in the midst of an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. More than 130 people are dying daily from an overdose. There is a connection, which you may 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 group at the University of Michigan, there’s a connection between alcohol and drug abuse and those under fifty who suffer from hearing loss.

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

Here’s what this specific study found:

  • 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.
  • 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 who developed hearing loss when they were younger than fifty were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids as their peers. They were also usually more likely to misuse other substances, like alcohol.

Hope and Solutions

Because scientists have already taken into consideration economics and class so those figures are especially staggering. So, now that we’ve recognized a relationship, we need to do something about it, right? Keep in mind, causation is not correlation so without understanding the exact cause, it will be hard to directly address the issue. Researchers did have a couple of theories:

  • Lack of communication: Getting people in and out 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 situations like this, a patient may not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions very well. They might not hear dosage information or other medication directions.
  • 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, especially if the individual in question doesn’t really understand the cause–he or she may not even realizethat hearing loss is the issue.
  • Medications that are ototoxic: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, 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.

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

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

It’s recommended by the writers of the study, that communications protocols be kept up to date by doctors and emergency departments. It would help 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 aware of some of the symptoms of hearing loss, too, and got help when we need it.

Don’t be nervous to ask questions of your doctors such as:

  • Is this drug addictive? Is there an alternative medication that is safer for my hearing, or do I really need this one.
  • Is this medication ototoxic? Are there alternatives?

If you are uncertain how a medicine will impact your overall health, what the risk are and how they should be taken, you should not leave the office with them.

Additionally, don’t wait to be tested if suspect that you might already be suffering from hearing loss. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will increase your health care costs by 26%. Schedule a hearing test right away.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.