The United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. Over 130 people are dying daily from an overdose. There is a link, which you may not have heard about, between drug and alcohol abuse and hearing loss.
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 people under fifty who suffer from hearing loss.
After analyzing around 86,000 participants, they found this link is stronger the younger the person is. Regrettably, it’s still unclear what causes that connection to begin with.
Here’s what this particular research found:
- People who developed hearing loss over fifty were not different from their peers when it comes to substance abuse rates.
- People were at least two times as likely to abuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were under the age of fifty. Other things, such as alcohol, were also more likely to be misused by this group.
- People who developed hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49 were two times as likely to develop general substance abuse problems than their peers.
Solutions and Hope
Those numbers are shocking, especially because experts have already taken into account concerns such as economics and class. So, now that we’ve identified a connection, we have to do something about it, right? Well, that can be difficult without knowing the exact cause (remember: causation is not correlation). A couple of theories have been put forward by researchers:
- Ototoxic medications: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
- Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
- Lack of communication: Getting people in and out 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 hurry than usual. In these cases, if patients aren’t able to communicate well, say they can’t hear questions or directions from the staff, they may not receive proper treatment. They might agree to recommendations of pain medicine without fully understanding the concerns, or they may mishear dosage instructions.
- Social solitude: 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, and if the person doesn’t understand that hearing loss is an issue or what the cause is, this is especially true.
Whether these occurrences increase loss of hearing, or that they are more likely to happen to those with hearing loss, the harmful repercussions to your health are the same.
Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse
The authors of the study recommend that doctors and emergency departments 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 symptoms of hearing loss in younger people. We individuals don’t get help when we need to and that would also be extremely helpful.
The following question need to be asked of your doctor:
- Is this drug addictive? Is there a different medicine that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I really need this one.
- Is this medication ototoxic? Are there alternate options?
Never leave a doctor’s office with medications unless you are completely clear on their dangers, how they should be taken and how they affect your general health.
In addition, if you suspect you have hearing loss, don’t wait to get checked. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will increase your health care costs by 26%. Schedule a hearing examination today.