Hearing Health Blog

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

The US. is having an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. Over 130 people are dying daily from an overdose. There is a connection, which you may not be aware of, between drug and alcohol abuse and hearing loss.

According to new research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and carried out by a team from 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 respondents, they found this link is stronger the younger the person is. What causes the link to begin with, regrettably, is still not clear.

Here’s what was found by this research:

  • People were two times as likely to develop a general substance abuse issue than their peers if they got hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49.
  • In terms of hearing loss, people over the age of fifty who developed hearing loss were not different from their peers when it comes to substance abuse.
  • People who developed hearing loss when they were younger than fifty were at least twice 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

Because experts have already taken into account class and economics so those numbers are particularly staggering. We need to do something about it, though, now that we have identified a connection. Well, that can be difficult without knowing the exact cause (remember: causation is not correlation). Researchers had a couple of theories:

  • 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, especially if the individual in question doesn’t really understand the cause–he or she may not even realizethat hearing loss is the issue.
  • Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • 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. Sometimes they are in a rush, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In situations like this, a patient may not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and instructions properly. They might agree to recommendations of pain medication without completely understanding the concerns, or they might mishear dosage instructions.
  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers 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 are the same to your health.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

It’s suggested by the writers of the study, that communications protocols be kept up to date by doctors and emergency departments. 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 should and that would also be extremely helpful.

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

  • Is this drug addictive? Do I really need it, or is there a different medication available that is less dangerous?
  • Is this drug ototoxic? Are there alternate options?

If you are unsure of how a medication will affect your general health, what the risk are and how they should be used, you shouldn’t take then home.

In addition, 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 increase your health care expenses by 26%. Schedule a hearing examination 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.
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