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

More than likely you are aware that the United States is having an opioid crisis. Overdoses are killing over 130 individuals daily. There is a connection, which you might not be aware of, between drug and alcohol abuse and loss of hearing.

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 the age of fifty who suffer from hearing loss and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

Approximately 86,000 individuals took part in the study and it was discovered that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. Unfortunately, it’s still not well known what causes that link in the first place.

Here’s what was found by this study:

  • People who developed loss of hearing over the age of fifty were not different from their peers when it comes to substance abuse rates.
  • People who developed hearing loss when they were the ages of 35-49 were twice as likely to develop general substance abuse issues than their peers.
  • People who developed hearing loss when they were younger than fifty were at least two times as likely to abuse opioids as their peers. They were also usually more likely to abuse other things, such as alcohol.

Hope and Solutions

Those figures are staggering, especially because scientists have already taken into account concerns like economics and class. We have to do something about it, though, now that we have identified a relationship. Keep in mind, causation is not correlation so without understanding the exact cause, it will be difficult to directly address the problem. A couple of theories have been put forward by researchers:

  • Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • Social solitude: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In situations like these, self-medication can be relatively common, and if the person doesn’t understand that hearing loss is an issue or what the cause is, this is especially true.
  • Lack of communication: Emergency medical departments are designed to get people in, deal with them, and get them out as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as they can. And if there is a life threatening emergency they can be in even more of a hurry than usual. In these situations, if patients aren’t able to communicate well, say they can’t hear questions or directions from the staff, they may not receive correct treatment. They may not hear dosage advise or other medication instructions.
  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, 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.

Whether hearing loss is made worse by these incidents, or that they are more likely to occur to those with hearing loss, 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 followed. In other words, 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 mindful of some of the symptoms of hearing loss, too, and got help when we need it.

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

  • Will I become addicted to this medication? Do I really need it, or is there an alternative medication available that is safer?
  • Will I have an ototoxic response to this drug? What are the alternatives?

Never leave a doctor’s office with medications unless you are crystal clear on their dangers, what the dosage schedule is and how they impact your general health.

In addition, if you think you have hearing loss, don’t wait to be tested. Neglecting your hearing loss for only two years can pay 26% more for your health care. So make an appointment now to have your hearing tested.

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.

Main Line Audiology Consultants, PC