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

More than likely you are aware that the United States is facing an opioid crisis. Overdoses are killing more than 130 people on a daily basis. But what you may not have heard yet 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 alcohol and drug abuse and people under fifty who suffer from hearing loss.

Approximately 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 clear.

Here’s what this particular study found:

  • People who developed hearing loss over fifty were not different from their peers when it comes to substance abuse rates.
  • Individuals who developed hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49 were two times as likely to develop general substance abuse problems than their peers.
  • 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. Other things, such as alcohol, were also more likely to be misused by this group.

Solutions and Hope

Those numbers are shocking, particularly because scientists have already accounted for issues such as economics and class. So, now that we’ve identified a connection, 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 problem. Researchers had 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 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, especially if the individual in question doesn’t really understand the cause–he or she may not even realizethat hearing loss is the issue.
  • Lack of communication: Emergency departments are designed to respond to people, deal with them, and process them as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as they can. And if there is a life threatening emergency they can be in even more of a hurry than normal. In these cases, if patients aren’t able to communicate very well, say they can’t hear questions or instructions from the staff, they might not get proper treatment. They may not hear dosage advise or other medication guidelines.

Whether loss of hearing is increased by these incidents, or those with hearing loss are more likely to have them, the harmful consequences to your health are the same.

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

The authors of the study suggest that doctors and emergency departments work extra hard to ensure that their communication methods are current and being followed. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for people with loss of hearing, in other words. We individuals don’t get 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 safer for my hearing, or do I really need this one.
  • Will I have an ototoxic response to this medication? Are there alternate options?

Never leave a doctor’s office with medications unless you are completely clear on their risks, how they should be taken and how they influence your overall health.

Additionally, don’t wait to get tested if suspect that you might already be suffering from hearing loss. Ignoring your hearing loss for just two years can increase your health care expenses by 26%. So schedule an appointment now to have your hearing tested.