The United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. More than 130 people are dying daily from an overdose. 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 conducted by a team at the University of Michigan, there’s a link between those under the age of fifty who suffer from hearing loss and abuse of alcohol or other substances.
After analyzing nearly 86,000 respondents, they found this connection is stronger the younger the individual is. What causes the connection to begin with, unfortunately, is still not clear.
Here’s what this specific research found:
- People who developed hearing loss under the age of fifty were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids than their peers. Other things, such as alcohol, were also more likely to be abused by this group.
- In terms of hearing loss, people above the age of fifty who developed hearing loss were not different from their peers when it comes to substance abuse.
- People were two times as likely to develop a general substance abuse problem than their peers if they got hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49.
Hope and Solutions
Those numbers are shocking, especially because experts have already taken into account issues like economics and class. So, now that we’ve identified a connection, we have to do something about it, right? Keep in mind, causation is not correlation so without knowing the exact cause, it will be difficult to directly deal with the issue. Researchers did have a couple of theories:
- Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
- Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
- 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.
- Lack of communication: Getting people in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are meant to do. Sometimes they are in a hurry, particularly if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these cases, if patients aren’t capable of communicating well, say they can’t hear questions or instructions from the staff, they might not receive correct treatment. They might agree to suggestions of pain medicine without fully understanding the concerns, or they might mishear dosage directions.
Whether these incidents increase loss of hearing, or that they are more likely to happen to those with loss of hearing, the harmful consequences to your health are the same.
Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse
The authors of the study recommend that doctors and emergency responders work extra hard to make sure that their communication methods are current and being followed. In other words, 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 should and that would also be very helpful.
The following question need to be asked of your doctor:
- Is this drug addictive? Do I actually need it, or is there a different medication available that is less dangerous?
- Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this drug? What are the alternate options?
Never leave a doctor’s office with medications unless you are crystal clear on their risks, what the dosage schedule is and how they influence your general health.
In addition, don’t wait to get tested if think that you are already suffering from loss of hearing. Ignoring your hearing loss for just two years can pay 26% more for your health care. So schedule an appointment now to have a hearing test.