The US. is in the midst of an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. Overdoses are killing over 130 people daily. But what you may not have heard yet is that there is a disturbing connection between hearing loss and drug and alcohol abuse.
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 link between those under the age of fifty who are suffering from loss of hearing and abuse of alcohol or other substances.
Nearly 86,000 people participated in the study and it was discovered that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. Unfortunately, it’s still not well known what causes that connection to begin with.
Here’s what this particular research found:
- People who developed hearing loss under the age of fifty were at least two times as likely to abuse opioids as their peers. Other substances, such as alcohol, were also inclined to be abused by this group.
- Individuals who developed hearing loss when they were the ages of 35-49 were two times as likely to develop general substance abuse issues than their peers.
- People who developed hearing loss over fifty did not differ from their peers in terms of substance abuse rates.
Solutions and Hope
Those figures are shocking, particularly because scientists have already taken into account issues like economics and class. So, now that we’ve recognized a connection, we have to do something about it, right? Remember, causation is not correlation so without understanding the exact cause, it will be hard to directly address the problem. Researchers had a couple of theories:
- Lack of communication: Emergency departments are designed to respond to people, deal with them, and get them out as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as they can. Sometimes they are in a rush, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these cases, if patients aren’t able to communicate very well, say they aren’t able to hear questions or instructions from the staff, they may not receive proper treatment. They might not hear dosage advise or other medication instructions.
- Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
- Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
- Social isolation: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. 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.
Whether these situations increase loss of hearing, or those with hearing loss are more likely to have them, 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 departments. Put another way, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the signs of hearing loss in younger individuals. But it would also help if we as individuals were more aware of some of the symptoms of hearing loss, too, and sought help when we need it.
Don’t be scared to ask questions of your doctors such as:
- Will I become addicted to this medicine? Do I really need it, or is there an alternative medicine available that is less dangerous?
- 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 impact your overall health.
In addition, don’t wait to get tested if think that you are already suffering from hearing loss. Ignoring your hearing loss for only two years can increase your health care costs by 26%. So schedule an appointment now to have your hearing tested.