More than likely you are aware that the United States is facing an opioid crisis. Overdoses are killing over 130 individuals every day. But what you might 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 from the University of Michigan, there’s a link between alcohol and drug abuse and people under fifty who suffer from hearing loss.
Roughly 86,000 individuals participated in the study and it was found that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. Sadly, it’s still unclear what causes that connection to begin with.
Here’s what was found by this research:
- People were at least twice as likely to misuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were under the age of fifty. They were also generally more likely to abuse other things, such as alcohol.
- In terms of hearing loss, people older than fifty who developed hearing loss didn’t differ from their peers when it comes to substance abuse.
- People were twice 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.
Solutions and Hope
Because researchers have already taken into account economics and class so those numbers are particularly shocking. We need to do something about it, though, now that we have recognized a connection. Well, that can be difficult without understanding the exact cause (remember: causation is not correlation). A couple of theories have been put forward by experts:
- Lack of communication: Emergency departments are designed to respond to people, treat them, and get them out as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as they can. Sometimes they are in a hurry, particularly if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these situations, if patients aren’t capable of communicating very well, say they aren’t able to hear questions or directions from the staff, they may not receive correct treatment. They might agree to suggestions of pain medicine without completely listening to the concerns, or they may mishear dosage instructions.
- Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
- Social solitude: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In these situations, 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.
- Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
Whether hearing loss is increased by these situations, or those with loss of hearing are more likely to have them, the harmful consequences 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. Put another way, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the symptoms of hearing loss in younger individuals. We individuals don’t seek help when we should and that would also be very helpful.
Don’t be scared to ask questions of your doctors like:
- Will I get addicted to this medication? Is there an alternative medicine that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I really need this one.
- Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this drug? Are there alternate options?
If you are unsure of how a medication will affect your overall health, what the risk are and how they should be used, you shouldn’t leave the office with them.
Additionally, if you believe you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait to get checked. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will pay 26% more for your health care. Schedule a hearing test today.