You most likely are aware that the United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis. Overdoses are killing over 130 individuals every day. But what you might not be aware of is that there is a troubling link 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 from 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.
Nearly 86,000 individuals participated in the study and it was found that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. Regrettably, it’s still not well known what causes that link to begin with.
Here’s what was found by this research:
- People who developed loss of hearing 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. They were also generally more likely to abuse other substances, such as alcohol.
- People who developed hearing loss between the ages of 35-49 were twice as likely to develop general substance abuse problems than their peers.
Hope and Solutions
Those figures are staggering, particularly because researchers have already accounted for concerns such as class and economics. So, now that we’ve recognized a connection, we have to do something about it, right? Well, that can be difficult without understanding the exact cause (remember: causation is not correlation). Researchers had a couple of theories:
- Lack of communication: Processing 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 able to communicate well, say they can’t hear questions or directions from the staff, they might not receive proper treatment. They might not hear dosage information or other medication guidelines.
- Medications that are ototoxic: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
- Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
- Social isolation: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. In situations like these, 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 hearing loss is made worse by these situations, or those with hearing loss are more likely to have them, the negative repercussions are the same to your health.
Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse
It’s recommended by the authors of the study, that communications standards 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. But it would also help if we as individuals were more aware of some of the symptoms of hearing loss, too, and sought out help when we need it.
Don’t be nervous to ask questions of your doctors like:
- Is this drug addictive? Do I really need it, or is there an alternative medicine available that is safer?
- Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this drug? What are the alternatives?
If you are unsure of how a medicine will impact your general health, what the dangers are and how they should be used, you shouldn’t leave the office with them.
Also, don’t wait to be tested if suspect that you might already be suffering from hearing loss. Ignoring your hearing loss for only two years can increase your health care expenses by 26%. Schedule a hearing test today.