Research Demonstrates a Connection Between Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss

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

You’re probably aware that the United States is facing an opioid crisis. Overdoses are killing over 130 people every day. There is a connection, which you may not be aware of, between drug and alcohol abuse and hearing loss.

According to new research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and carried out 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 evaluating roughly 86,000 participants, they found this connection is stronger the younger the person is. What causes the connection to begin with, unfortunately, is still not well understood.

Here’s what this particular research found:

  • People who developed hearing loss under the age of fifty were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids as their peers. They were also generally more likely to abuse other things, such as alcohol.
  • Individuals who developed hearing loss when they were the ages of 35 and 49 were two times as likely to develop general substance abuse problems than their peers.
  • People who developed loss of hearing over the age of fifty were not different from their peers in terms of substance abuse rates.

Hope and Solutions

Because researchers have already accounted for economics and class so those figures are particularly staggering. So, now that we’ve identified a relationship, we need to do something about it, right? Keep in mind, causation is not correlation so without understanding the exact cause, it will be hard to directly address the issue. A couple of theories have been put forward by experts:

  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, 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: 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 usual. In situations such as this, a patient might not get proper treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions properly. They might agree to recommendations of pain medication without fully listening to the risks, or they may mishear dosage instructions.
  • Medications that are ototoxic: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • Social solitude: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In these situations, 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.

Whether hearing loss is made worse by these situations, or that they are more likely to occur to those with hearing loss, the negative repercussions to your health are the same.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

It’s suggested by the writers of the study, that communications standards be kept current by doctors and emergency responders. It would be helpful if doctors were on the lookout for people with hearing loss, in other words. We individuals don’t seek help when we need to and that would also be very helpful.

The following question need to be asked of your doctor:

  • Is this drug addictive? Is there a different medication that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I truly need this one.
  • Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this medication? Are there alternatives?

Never go home from a doctors appointment with medications unless you are completely clear on their risks, how they should be taken and how they impact your overall health.

In addition, don’t wait to get tested if suspect that you are already suffering from hearing loss. Neglecting your hearing loss for just two years can pay 26% more for your health care. Schedule a hearing test right away.

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.