The US. is facing an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. More than 130 people are dying every day from an overdose. But what you might not be aware of is that there is a troubling connection 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 connection between those under fifty who are suffering from loss of hearing and abuse of alcohol or other substances.
Around 86,000 people took part in the study and it was discovered that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. What causes the link in the first place, regrettably, is still not clear.
Here’s what was discovered by this study:
- People who developed hearing loss when they were younger than fifty were at least two times as likely to abuse opioids as their peers. They were also usually more likely to misuse other things, like alcohol.
- People who developed hearing loss over fifty were not different from their peers in terms of substance abuse rates.
- People were twice as likely to develop a general substance abuse problem than their peers if they got hearing loss when they were between the ages of 35 and 49.
Solutions and Hope
Those figures are staggering, especially because researchers have already accounted for issues such as economics and class. We have to do something about it, though, now that we have identified a connection. Remember, causation is not correlation so without knowing the exact cause, it will be difficult to directly deal with the issue. Researchers had a couple of theories:
- Ototoxic medications: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
- Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.
- Lack of communication: Emergency departments are designed to get people in, treat them, and get them out 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 cases, if patients aren’t capable of communicating well, say they can’t hear questions or directions from the staff, they may not receive proper treatment. They might agree to recommendations of pain medicine without completely understanding the risks, or they might mishear dosage directions.
- 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, especially if the individual in question doesn’t really understand the cause–he or she may not even realizethat hearing loss is the issue.
Whether these situations increase hearing loss, or those with hearing loss 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 authors of the study, that communications protocols be kept up to date by doctors and emergency responders. It would be helpful if doctors were on the lookout for individuals with loss of hearing, 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 got help when we need it.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your doctors such as:
- Will I become addicted to this medication? Is there an alternative medication that is safer for my hearing, or do I truly need this one.
- Will I have an ototoxic response to this medication? Are there alternate options?
If you are unsure of how a medication will affect your general health, what the dangers are and how they should be used, you should not leave the office with them.
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%. So schedule an appointment now to have your hearing tested.