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

After evaluating roughly 86,000 respondents, they found this connection is stronger the younger the individual is. What causes the link to begin with, regrettably, is still not clear.

Here’s what was discovered by this research:

  • People were twice as likely to develop a general substance abuse issue than their peers if they got hearing loss when they were between the ages of 35 and 49.
  • People who developed hearing loss over the age of fifty did not differ from their peers when it comes to substance abuse rates.
  • 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, like alcohol.

Solutions and Hope

Those figures are staggering, particularly because experts have already taken into account issues such as class and economics. So, now that we’ve identified a connection, we have to do something about it, right? Well, that can be a problem without knowing the exact cause (remember: causation is not correlation). Researchers did have a couple of theories:

  • Lack of communication: Processing as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are designed to do. Sometimes they are in a rush, particularly if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In cases such as this, a patient may not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and instructions properly. They might not hear dosage advise or other medication instructions.
  • Social isolation: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In these situations, 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: It’s also true, of course, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.
  • Ototoxic medications: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.

Whether hearing loss is increased by these incidents, or that they are more likely to occur to those with loss of hearing, the harmful repercussions are the same to your health.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

The authors of the research suggest that doctors and emergency departments work extra hard to ensure that their communication methods are current and being followed. In other words, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the indications of hearing loss in younger people. But it would also help if we as individuals were more aware of some of the signs of hearing loss, too, and got help when we need it.

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

  • Is this medication addictive? Is there a different medicine that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I truly need this one.
  • Will I have an ototoxic response to this drug? What are the alternatives?

Never go home from a doctors appointment with medications unless you are completely clear on their risks, what the dosage schedule is and how they influence your overall 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 make an appointment now to have your hearing tested.

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.