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

The United States is having an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. Overdoses are killing over 130 individuals on a daily basis. 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 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 analyzing approximately 86,000 respondents, they found this link is stronger the younger the individual is. What causes the link in the first place, regrettably, is still not clear.

Here’s what this specific study found:

  • People were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were under the age of fifty. Other things, such as alcohol, were also more likely to be abused by this group.
  • People were twice 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 above the age of fifty who developed hearing loss were not different from their peers when it comes to substance abuse.

Hope and Solutions

Those figures are staggering, particularly because experts have already taken into account concerns like economics and class. So, now that we’ve identified a relationship, 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:

  • Medications that are ototoxic: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • Lack of communication: Emergency medical departments are designed to get people in, deal with them, and process them as efficiently (or, in many cases, quickly) as possible. Sometimes they are in a hurry, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these cases, if patients aren’t able to communicate very well, say they can’t hear questions or directions from the staff, they might not get proper treatment. They might not hear dosage advise or other medication directions.
  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, 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.
  • Social isolation: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. 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.

Whether loss of hearing is increased by these incidents, or those with loss of hearing are more likely to have them, the negative consequences are the same to your health.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

The authors of the study suggest that doctors and emergency responders work very hard to make sure that their communication standards are up to date and being followed. In other words, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the indications of hearing loss in younger people. We individuals don’t seek help when we need to and that would also be very helpful.

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

  • Is this medication addictive? Is there a different medication that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I truly need this one.
  • Will I have an ototoxic response to this drug? What are the alternatives?

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

Additionally, don’t wait to be tested if think 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 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.
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