You’re probably aware that the United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis. Overdoses are killing over 130 individuals each day. There is a link, which you may not be aware of, between drug and alcohol abuse and loss of hearing.
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 alcohol and drug abuse and those under fifty who suffer from hearing loss.
After evaluating nearly 86,000 participants, they found this link is stronger the younger the person is. What causes the connection in the first place, regrettably, is still not clear.
Here’s what was found by this research:
- In terms of hearing loss, people older than fifty who developed hearing loss didn’t differ 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 when they were between the ages of 35 and 49.
- People who developed hearing loss under the age of fifty were at least two times as likely to abuse opioids than their peers. Other things, such as alcohol, were also inclined to be abused by this group.
Hope and Solutions
Those numbers are shocking, particularly because researchers have already accounted for issues such as class and economics. We need to do something about it, though, now that we have identified a connection. Well, that can be a problem without understanding the exact cause (remember: correlation is not causation). Researchers did have a couple of theories:
- Social solitude: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In situations like these, 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.
- 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 rush, particularly if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In cases like this, a patient may not get proper treatment because they can’t hear questions and instructions properly. They might not hear dosage advise or other medication directions.
- 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.
- Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
Whether loss of hearing is increased by these situations, or that they are more likely to occur to those with hearing loss, the damaging repercussions are the same to your health.
Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it
It’s recommended by the authors of the study, that communications protocols be kept up to date by doctors and emergency responders. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for people 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 help when we need it.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your doctors such as:
- Will I get addicted to this medication? Do I actually need it, or is there an alternative medicine available that is less dangerous?
- Is this medication ototoxic? What are the alternate options?
Never leave a doctor’s office with medicines 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 be tested if think that you might already be suffering from loss of hearing. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will pay 26% more for your health care. So make an appointment now to have a hearing test.