More than likely you are aware that the United States is facing an opioid crisis. Over 130 people are dying every day from an overdose. There is a link, which you may not have heard about, 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 group at the University of Michigan, there’s a connection between alcohol and drug abuse and people under fifty who have hearing loss.
After evaluating nearly 86,000 participants, they found this connection is stronger the younger the person is. Unfortunately, it’s still unclear what causes that connection to begin with.
Here’s what this particular research found:
- People were two times as likely to develop a general substance abuse problem than their peers if they got hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49.
- People were at least twice as likely to misuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were less than fifty. They were also usually more likely to misuse other substances, like alcohol.
- When it comes to hearing loss, people older than fifty who developed hearing loss didn’t differ from their peers in terms of substance abuse.
Hope and Solutions
Because scientists have already accounted for economics and class so those numbers are particularly shocking. So, now that we’ve recognized a relationship, we need to do something about it, right? Remember, correlation is not causation so without knowing the exact cause, it will be hard to directly address the problem. A couple of theories have been put forward by experts:
- Social isolation: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. 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.
- Lack of communication: Emergency medical departments are designed to respond to people, deal with them, and process them as efficiently (or, in many cases, quickly) as possible. Sometimes they are in a hurry, particularly if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these situations, if patients aren’t capable of communicating very well, say they aren’t able to hear questions or instructions from the staff, they might not receive proper treatment. They might agree to recommendations of pain medication without fully understanding the concerns, or they might mishear dosage instructions.
- Medications that are ototoxic: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
- Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, 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.
Whether these occurrences increase loss of hearing, or those with loss of hearing are more likely to have them, the negative repercussions to your health are the same.
Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it
It’s suggested by the writers of the study, that communications standards be kept current by doctors and emergency departments. Put another way, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the indications of hearing loss in younger people. But it would also help if we as individuals were more aware of some of the signs of hearing loss, too, and sought out help when we need it.
The following question need to be asked of your doctor:
- Will I become addicted to this medication? Do I really need it, or is there an alternative medicine available that is less dangerous?
- Will I have an ototoxic response to this drug? What are the alternatives?
Never leave a doctor’s office with medications unless you are completely clear on their risks, what the dosage schedule is and how they affect your general 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 increase your health care costs by 26%. So make an appointment now to have a hearing test.