The US. is having an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. Overdoses are killing more than 130 individuals each day. But what you may not have heard yet is that there is a disturbing connection between loss of hearing 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 connection between alcohol and drug abuse and those under fifty who have hearing loss.
After evaluating around 86,000 participants, they found this link is stronger the younger the person is. What causes the connection in the first place, regrettably, is still not well understood.
Here’s what was found by this research:
- People were at least two times as likely to misuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were less than fifty. They were also generally more likely to abuse other things, such as alcohol.
- 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.
- Individuals who developed hearing loss between the ages of 35-49 were twice as likely to develop general substance abuse problems than their peers.
Solutions and Hope
Because experts have already accounted for economics and class so those figures are particularly staggering. We have to do something about it, though, now that we have identified a connection. Well, that can be difficult without understanding the exact cause (remember: causation is not correlation). Researchers had a couple of theories:
- Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
- Lack of communication: Getting people in and out 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 normal. In these situations, if patients aren’t capable of communicating well, say they can’t hear questions or directions from the staff, they might not get proper treatment. They might agree to suggestions of pain medication without fully listening to the concerns, or they may mishear dosage instructions.
- Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
- Social isolation: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. 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 these situations increase hearing loss, or those with loss of hearing are more likely to have them, the harmful repercussions are the same to your health.
Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse
The authors of the research recommend that doctors and emergency responders work extra hard to ensure that their communication methods are current and being followed. Put another way, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the symptoms of hearing loss in younger individuals. But it would also help if we as individuals were more aware of some of the symptoms of hearing loss, too, and got help when we need it.
Don’t be nervous to ask questions of your doctors such as:
- Is this drug addictive? Is there an alternative medication that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I really need this one.
- Will I have an ototoxic response to this medication? What are the alternate options?
If you are uncertain how a medication will affect your general health, what the dangers 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 be checked. Ignoring your hearing loss for just two years can pay 26% more for your health care. So make an appointment now to have a hearing test.