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

The US. is having an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. Overdoses are killing over 130 people each day. There is a connection, which you may 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 fifty who suffer from loss of hearing and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

After analyzing around 86,000 participants, they found this connection is stronger the younger the individual is. What causes the connection to begin with, regrettably, is still not clear.

Here’s what this specific research found:

  • People who developed hearing loss when they were younger than fifty were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids as their peers. Other things, like alcohol, were also inclined to be misused by this group.
  • 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.
  • 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

Those numbers are staggering, especially because researchers have already accounted for issues like class and economics. We need to do something about it, though, now that we have identified a connection. Remember, causation is not correlation so without knowing the exact cause, it will be difficult to directly deal with the issue. A couple of theories have been put forward by scientists:

  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, 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: Emergency departments are designed to get people in, treat them, and process them as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as possible. Sometimes they are in a rush, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In situations like this, a patient might not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions very well. They may agree to suggestions of pain medicine without fully understanding the concerns, or they may mishear dosage directions.
  • Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • Social solitude: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. 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 hearing loss is made worse by these incidents, or those with hearing loss are more likely to have them, the negative consequences are the same to your health.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

It’s suggested by the authors of the study, that communications standards be kept current by doctors and emergency departments. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for people with loss of hearing, in other words. But it would also help if we as individuals were more mindful of some of the signs of hearing loss, too, and sought out help when we need it.

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

  • Is this medication addictive? Is there a different medicine that is less dangerous for my hearing, or do I really need this one.
  • Is this drug ototoxic? What are the alternatives?

If you are uncertain how a medicine will impact your general health, what the risk are and how they should be taken, you shouldn’t take then home.

In addition, if you believe you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait to get tested. 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.

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.
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