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 having an opioid crisis. Overdoses are killing more than 130 individuals on a daily basis. But what you may 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 connection between those under fifty who are suffering from loss of hearing and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

After evaluating around 86,000 respondents, they found this link is stronger the younger the individual is. Regrettably, it’s still not well known what causes that connection to begin with.

Here’s what this particular research found:

  • 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 substances, like alcohol, were also inclined to be misused by this group.
  • People who developed loss of hearing over the age of fifty were not different from their peers in terms of substance abuse rates.
  • Individuals who developed hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49 were twice as likely to develop general substance abuse problems than their peers.

Solutions and Hope

Because researchers have already accounted for class and economics so those numbers are especially shocking. 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 issue. Researchers did have a couple of theories:

  • Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, 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: 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 cases like this, a patient may not get proper treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions very well. They might agree to recommendations of pain medicine without completely understanding the risks, or they might mishear dosage directions.
  • Medications that are ototoxic: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
  • 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 incidents, or those with loss of hearing are more likely to have them, the negative consequences to your health are the same.

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

The authors of the research suggest that doctors and emergency responders work very hard to ensure that their communication methods are up to date and being implemented. It would be helpful if doctors were on the lookout for people with loss of hearing, in other words. We individuals don’t seek help when we need to and that would also be extremely helpful.

The following question should be asked of your doctor:

  • Will I become addicted to this medicine? Is there a different medicine that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I really need this one.
  • Is this drug ototoxic? What are the alternate options?

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

In addition, if you think you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait to be tested. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will pay 26% more for your health care. Schedule a hearing exam 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.