The United States is having an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. More than 130 people are dying every day from an overdose. But what you may not be aware of is that there is a troubling link between hearing loss and drug and alcohol abuse.
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 loss of hearing and abuse of alcohol or other substances.
Nearly 86,000 individuals took part in the study and it was found that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. Regrettably, it’s still unclear what causes that link in the first place.
Here’s what this specific study found:
- People were two times as likely to develop a general substance abuse issue than their peers if they got hearing loss when they were between the ages of 35 and 49.
- People who developed loss of hearing over the age of fifty did not differ from their peers when it comes to substance abuse rates.
- People who developed hearing loss under the age of fifty were at least two times as likely to misuse opioids than their peers. They were also generally more likely to misuse other things, such as alcohol.
Solutions and Hope
Those numbers are staggering, especially because researchers have already taken into account concerns like class and economics. So, now that we’ve identified a connection, we have to do something about it, right? Well, that can be a problem without understanding the exact cause (remember: causation is not correlation). Researchers did have a couple of theories:
- Social solitude: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. 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.
- Lack of communication: Processing 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 rush than usual. In these situations, if patients aren’t capable of communicating well, say they can’t hear questions or directions from the staff, they may not get proper treatment. They might not hear dosage advise or other medication instructions.
- Medications that are ototoxic: 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 some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.
Whether these occurrences increase hearing loss, or that they are more likely to happen to those with loss of hearing, the negative consequences are the same to your health.
Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse
It’s recommended by the authors of the study, that communications standards be kept current by doctors and emergency departments. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for people with hearing loss, in other words. We individuals don’t get help when we need to and that would also be very helpful.
Don’t be nervous to ask questions of your doctors like:
- Is this drug addictive? Do I really need it, or is there an alternative medicine available that is safer?
- Is this medication ototoxic? What are the alternate options?
If you are uncertain how a medicine will affect your overall health, what the dangers are and how they should be taken, you should not take then home.
Also, don’t wait to be tested if suspect that you are already suffering from loss of hearing. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will pay 26% more for your health care. Schedule a hearing test today.