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

The United States is facing an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. Overdoses are killing more than 130 individuals on a daily basis. There is a link, 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 carried out by a group from the University of Michigan, there’s a connection between alcohol and drug abuse and people under fifty who have hearing loss.

Nearly 86,000 people participated in the study and it was discovered that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. Regrettably, it’s still unclear what causes that link to begin with.

Here’s what was discovered by this study:

  • In terms of hearing loss, people older than fifty who developed hearing loss were not different from their peers when it comes to substance abuse.
  • 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 were at least two times as likely to misuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were under the age of fifty. They were also generally more likely to misuse other things, such as alcohol.

Hope and Solutions

Those figures are shocking, especially because researchers have already taken into account issues such as economics and class. We have to do something about it, though, now that we have identified a connection. Remember, causation is not correlation so without understanding the exact cause, it will be difficult to directly address the problem. Researchers had a couple of theories:

  • Social isolation: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. In situations like these, self-medication can be relatively common, 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: Of course, it’s also true, 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.
  • Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • 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 rush than normal. In cases such as this, a patient may not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and instructions very well. They may not hear dosage information or other medication directions.

Whether these situations increase hearing loss, 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

The authors of the research recommend that doctors and emergency responders work extra hard to make sure that their communication methods are current and being implemented. Put another way, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the indications of hearing loss in younger individuals. We individuals don’t get help when we should and that would also be very helpful.

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

  • Will I get addicted to this drug? Is there an alternative medicine that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I really 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 dangers, what the dosage schedule is and how they influence your general health.

Additionally, if you believe you have hearing loss, don’t wait to get checked. Ignoring your hearing loss for just two years can increase your health care expenses by 26%. So schedule an appointment now to have your hearing tested.