Research Reveals a Connection Between Hearing Loss And Substance Abuse

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

The US. is in the midst of an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. More than 130 people are dying each day from an overdose. But what you may not be aware of is that there is a disturbing 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 group from the University of Michigan, there’s a link between those under the age of fifty who suffer from loss of hearing and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

Around 86,000 people took part in the study and it was found that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. What causes the connection to begin with, unfortunately, is still not well understood.

Here’s what was found by this research:

  • 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.
  • 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. They were also generally more likely to misuse other substances, like alcohol.
  • When it comes to hearing loss, people above the age of fifty who developed hearing loss didn’t differ from their peers in terms of substance abuse.

Hope and Solutions

Because experts have already accounted for class and economics so those figures are particularly staggering. 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 address the problem. A couple of theories have been put forward by researchers:

  • 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 normal. In situations such as this, a patient may not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and instructions very well. They may agree to recommendations of pain medicine without fully listening to the concerns, or they may mishear dosage instructions.
  • 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, especially if the individual in question doesn’t really understand the cause–he or she may not even realizethat hearing loss is the issue.
  • Medications that are ototoxic: 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 unhealthy levels. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.

Whether these incidents increase loss of hearing, or those with hearing loss are more likely to have them, the negative repercussions are the same to your health.

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

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

The following question should be asked of your doctor:

  • Will I become addicted to this medication? Is there an alternative medicine that is safer for my hearing, or do I really need this one.
  • Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this medication? What are the alternate options?

Never go home from a doctors appointment with medicines unless you are crystal clear on their dangers, how they should be taken and how they affect your general health.

Additionally, if you suspect you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait to be tested. Neglecting your hearing loss for only two years can pay 26% more for your health care. So schedule an appointment now to have a hearing test.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.