Research Demonstrates a Connection Between Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss

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

The United States is facing an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. Over 130 people are dying each day from an overdose. But what you might not have heard yet is that there is a disturbing link between hearing loss and drug and alcohol abuse.

According to new research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and carried out by a team from the University of Michigan, there’s a link between those under fifty who suffer from loss of hearing and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

Roughly 86,000 individuals participated in the study and it was discovered that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. What causes the connection to begin with, unfortunately, is still not well understood.

Here’s what was discovered by this study:

  • People were two times 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 two times as likely to abuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were under the age of fifty. Other things, like alcohol, were also inclined to be misused by this group.
  • People who developed loss of hearing over the age of fifty were not different from their peers in terms of substance abuse rates.

Hope and Solutions

Because researchers have already accounted for class and economics so those figures are particularly staggering. So, now that we’ve identified a connection, we have to do something about it, right? Keep in mind, causation is not correlation so without understanding the exact cause, it will be hard to directly address the problem. A couple of theories have been put forward by researchers:

  • Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
  • Ototoxic medications: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
  • Social solitude: 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.
  • Lack of communication: Processing 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 hurry than usual. In cases such as this, a patient might not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions properly. They may not hear dosage information or other medication instructions.

Whether these incidents increase hearing loss, or that they are more likely to happen to those with loss of hearing, the negative consequences to your health are the same.

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

The authors of the study recommend that doctors and emergency departments work extra hard to make sure that their communication protocols are up to date and being implemented. Put another way, 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 need to and that would also be extremely helpful.

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

  • Will I get addicted to this drug? Is there a different medication that is safer for my hearing, or do I really need this one.
  • Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this medication? What are the alternatives?

Never go home from a doctors appointment with medications unless you are completely clear on their risks, how they should be taken and how they affect your overall health.

In addition, don’t wait to be tested if think that you might already be suffering from loss of hearing. Neglecting your hearing loss for just two years can pay 26% more for your health care. Schedule a hearing exam today.

Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. Call Us Today