The United States is facing an opioid crisis as you’re likely aware. Overdoses are killing more than 130 individuals each day. But what you may not have heard yet is that there is a troubling connection 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 group at 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 people took part in the study and it was discovered that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. What causes the link in the first place, regrettably, is still not clear.
Here’s what this specific research found:
- 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 less than fifty. They were also generally more likely to abuse other things, like alcohol.
- 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.
Solutions and Hope
Those figures are staggering, particularly because experts have already taken into account concerns such as class and economics. We need to do something about it, though, now that we have recognized a connection. Keep in mind, correlation is not causation 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 researchers:
- Lack of communication: Emergency medical departments are designed to respond to people, deal with them, and process them as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as possible. And if there is a life threatening emergency they can be in even more of a hurry than normal. In situations such as this, a patient might not get proper treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions properly. They may agree to recommendations of pain medication without fully listening to the risks, or they may mishear dosage instructions.
- Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
- 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 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.
Whether loss of hearing is made worse by these situations, or that they are more likely to happen to those with loss of hearing, the negative repercussions are the same to your health.
Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse
The authors of the study suggest that doctors and emergency responders work very hard to ensure that their communication standards are up to date and being implemented. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for people with loss of hearing, in other words. We individuals don’t seek help when we need to and that would also be extremely helpful.
The following question should be asked of your doctor:
- Will I become addicted to this medication? Is there a different medication that is safer for my hearing, or do I really need this one.
- Will I have an ototoxic response to this drug? What are the alternate options?
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 leave the office with them.
Also, don’t wait to get tested if think that you are already suffering from loss of hearing. Ignoring your hearing loss for just two years can increase your health care expenses by 26%. Schedule a hearing test today.