Research Reveals a Link Between Loss of Hearing And Substance Abuse

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

The United States is having an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. Overdoses are killing more than 130 individuals on a daily basis. But what you may not have heard yet is that there is a disturbing link 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 those under the age of fifty who are suffering from hearing loss and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

After analyzing around 86,000 participants, they found this connection is stronger the younger the person is. Regrettably, it’s still unclear what causes that connection to begin with.

Here’s what this particular study found:

  • 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.
  • People were at least twice 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 misuse other substances, 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.

Hope and Solutions

Because scientists have already accounted for economics and class so those numbers are especially shocking. We need to do something about it, though, now that we have recognized a connection. Well, that can be difficult without knowing the exact cause (remember: causation is not correlation). A couple of theories have been put forward by scientists:

  • Social isolation: 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.
  • Medications that are ototoxic: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. 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 respond to people, treat them, and process them as efficiently (or, in many cases, quickly) as they can. Sometimes they are in a hurry, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In situations like this, a patient might not get proper treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions very well. They might agree to suggestions of pain medicine without fully listening to the concerns, or they might mishear dosage instructions.

Whether loss of hearing is made worse by these situations, or that they are more likely to occur to those with loss of hearing, the negative consequences are the same to your health.

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

The authors of the study suggest that doctors and emergency responders work very hard to ensure that their communication methods are current and being implemented. In other words, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the signs of hearing loss in younger people. We individuals don’t get help when we should and that would also be very helpful.

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

  • Will I get addicted to this drug? Do I actually need it, or is there a different medicine available that is safer?
  • Is this medication ototoxic? What are the alternate options?

If you are uncertain how a medication will impact your overall 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 costs by 26%. 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.