The United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. Overdoses are killing more than 130 people 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 carried out 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 participated in the study and it was discovered that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. What causes the connection to begin with, regrettably, is still not clear.
Here’s what this specific research found:
- People who developed hearing loss between the ages of 35-49 were two times as likely to develop general substance abuse problems than their peers.
- People who developed hearing loss over fifty were not different from their peers in terms of substance abuse rates.
- People who developed hearing loss when they were younger than fifty were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids than their peers. They were also generally more likely to misuse other things, such as alcohol.
Solutions and Hope
Those numbers are staggering, particularly because experts have already taken into account issues like economics and class. So, now that we’ve recognized a connection, we need 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 deal with the issue. 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 situations like these, it’s common for people to self medicate, 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: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
- Lack of communication: Processing as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are meant to do. Sometimes they are in a rush, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these situations, if patients aren’t able to communicate well, say they aren’t able to hear questions or instructions from the staff, they might not get correct treatment. They might agree to recommendations of pain medicine without fully understanding the concerns, or they might mishear dosage instructions.
- Higher blood pressure: It’s also true, of course, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.
Whether hearing loss is made worse by these incidents, or those with hearing loss are more likely to have them, the damaging repercussions to your health are the same.
Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse
It’s recommended by the writers of the study, that communications protocols be kept current by doctors and emergency responders. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for individuals with hearing loss, in other words. We individuals don’t seek help when we need to and that would also be very helpful.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your doctors like:
- Will I get addicted to this medicine? Do I really need it, or is there a different medication available that is less dangerous?
- Is this medication ototoxic? What are the alternatives?
If you are unsure of how a medicine will impact your overall health, what the dangers are and how they should be taken, you should not take then home.
Additionally, don’t wait to get tested if think that you are already suffering from hearing loss. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will pay 26% more for your health care. Schedule a hearing test right away.