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

More than likely you are aware that the US . is facing an opioid crisis. Overdoses are killing more than 130 people on a daily basis. There is a link, which you might 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 team at the University of Michigan, there’s a link between those under fifty who are suffering from hearing loss and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

After analyzing roughly 86,000 participants, they found this link is stronger the younger the individual is. What causes the connection in the first place, regrettably, is still not clear.

Here’s what this particular research found:

  • Individuals who developed hearing loss between the ages of 35-49 were twice as likely to develop general substance abuse problems than their peers.
  • People who developed hearing loss under the age of fifty were at least two times as likely to misuse opioids as their peers. They were also generally more likely to misuse other substances, such as alcohol.
  • In terms of hearing loss, people over the age of fifty who developed hearing loss didn’t differ from their peers when it comes to substance abuse.

Solutions and Hope

Those numbers are staggering, particularly because scientists have already taken into account issues like 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: correlation is not causation). A couple of theories have been put forward by researchers:

  • Lack of communication: Emergency medical departments are designed to get people in, treat them, and process them as efficiently (or, in many cases, quickly) as possible. And if there is a life threatening emergency they can be in even more of a hurry than usual. In situations such as this, a patient may not get proper treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions properly. They may agree to suggestions of pain medicine without fully understanding the risks, or they might mishear dosage instructions.
  • 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.
  • Medications that are ototoxic: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • Social isolation: 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.

Whether loss of hearing is made worse by these situations, or that they are more likely to occur to those with hearing loss, the negative consequences are the same to your health.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

The authors of the research recommend that doctors and emergency responders work very hard to ensure that their communication standards are up to date and being implemented. It would be helpful 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 mindful of some of the signs of hearing loss, too, and sought out help when we need it.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your doctors like:

  • Will I get addicted to this drug? Do I really need it, or is there an alternative medication available that is less dangerous?
  • Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this medication? Are there alternatives?

Never go home from a doctors appointment with medicines unless you are crystal clear on their dangers, how they should be taken and how they influence your general health.

In addition, don’t wait to be tested if suspect 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 your hearing tested.

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.
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