The United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. Overdoses are killing more than 130 individuals on a daily basis. But what you might not have heard yet is that there is a troubling link 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 connection between alcohol and drug abuse and those under fifty who suffer from loss of hearing.
Around 86,000 people took part in the study and it was discovered that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. Regrettably, it’s still unclear what causes that connection in the first place.
Here’s what was found by this study:
- In terms of hearing loss, people older than 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 the ages of 35-49 were two times as likely to develop general substance abuse problems than their peers.
- People who developed hearing loss under the age of fifty were at least two times as likely to abuse opioids as their peers. They were also generally more likely to abuse other things, such as alcohol.
Hope and Solutions
Those numbers are shocking, especially because experts have already accounted for concerns such as class and economics. We need to do something about it, though, now that we have recognized a connection. Remember, correlation is not causation so without understanding the exact cause, it will be hard to directly address the problem. A couple of theories have been put forward by researchers:
- Social solitude: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. 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: It’s also true, of course, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.
- Lack of communication: Emergency medical departments are designed to respond to people, treat them, and process them as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as possible. Sometimes they are in a hurry, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these situations, if patients aren’t capable of communicating very well, say they aren’t able to hear questions or directions from the staff, they may not receive proper treatment. They might agree to suggestions of pain medicine without completely understanding the concerns, or they may mishear dosage instructions.
- Medications that are ototoxic: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
Whether loss of hearing is increased by these situations, or those with loss of hearing 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 writers of the study, that communications protocols be kept current by doctors and emergency departments. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for individuals with hearing loss, in other words. We individuals don’t get help when we should and that would also be extremely helpful.
The following question should be asked of your doctor:
- Will I become addicted to this drug? Is there an alternative medicine that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I truly need this one.
- Is this drug ototoxic? Are there alternate options?
Never go home from a doctors appointment with medicines unless you are completely clear on their risks, what the dosage schedule is and how they affect your overall health.
In addition, don’t wait to be tested if think that you are already suffering from loss of hearing. Neglecting your hearing loss for just two years can pay 26% more for your health care. So make an appointment now to have your hearing tested.