Puretone Hearing Aid Center - Longview, Marshall, and San Antonio, TX

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

The United States is having an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. More than 130 people are dying each day from an overdose. There is a link, which you might not have heard about, between drug and alcohol abuse and hearing loss.

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 link between those under fifty who are suffering from hearing loss and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

After evaluating around 86,000 participants, they found this link is stronger the younger the individual is. Sadly, it’s still not well known what causes that connection to begin with.

Here’s what was discovered by this research:

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

Solutions and Hope

Those figures are shocking, especially because scientists have already accounted for concerns such as economics and class. We need to do something about it, though, now that we have identified a connection. Remember, correlation is not causation so without understanding the exact cause, it will be hard to directly address the issue. A couple of theories have been put forward by researchers:

  • Lack of communication: Getting people in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are designed to do. And if there is a life threatening emergency they can be in even more of a hurry than normal. In these situations, if patients aren’t capable of communicating very well, say they aren’t able to hear questions or instructions from the staff, they might not get proper treatment. They might agree to suggestions of pain medication without completely understanding the concerns, or they might mishear dosage instructions.
  • 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.
  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.

Whether these situations increase hearing loss, or those with loss of hearing are more likely to have them, the negative repercussions are the same to your health.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

The authors of the research suggest that doctors and emergency departments work very hard to ensure that their communication methods are current and being followed. Put another way, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the symptoms of hearing loss in younger individuals. We individuals don’t seek help when we need to and that would also be extremely helpful.

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

  • Is this medication addictive? Do I actually need it, or is there an alternative medication available that is safer?
  • Is this drug ototoxic? What are the alternate options?

Never leave a doctor’s office with medications unless you are completely clear on their risks, what the dosage schedule is and how they influence your overall health.

In addition, if you suspect you have hearing loss, don’t wait to get tested. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will increase your health care costs by 26%. So make an appointment now to have a hearing test.

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.