Geneva Hearing Services - Geneva, IL

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

The United States is having an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. Overdoses are killing over 130 individuals on a daily basis. But what you might not be aware of is that there is a disturbing 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 team at the University of Michigan, there’s a link between alcohol and drug abuse and those under fifty who suffer from hearing loss.

After analyzing around 86,000 respondents, they found this link is stronger the younger the person is. Sadly, it’s still unclear what causes that connection to begin with.

Here’s what this particular research found:

  • People who developed loss of hearing over the age of fifty did not differ from their peers when it comes to substance abuse rates.
  • People who developed hearing loss when they were the ages of 35 and 49 were twice as likely to develop general substance abuse issues than their peers.
  • People who developed hearing loss under the age of fifty were at least twice as likely to abuse opioids than their peers. Other things, such as alcohol, were also more likely to be abused by this group.

Hope and Solutions

Those figures are staggering, especially because scientists have already taken into account issues like class and economics. 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 knowing the exact cause, it will be hard to directly address the problem. Researchers had a couple of theories:

  • Lack of communication: Processing as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are designed to do. Sometimes they are in a hurry, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In these situations, if patients aren’t able to communicate well, say they can’t hear questions or instructions from the staff, they might not receive correct treatment. They might not hear dosage information or other medication instructions.
  • Ototoxic medications: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
  • 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.
  • Social solitude: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. In these situations, 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 realize that hearing loss is the issue.

Whether hearing loss is increased by these incidents, or that they are more likely to occur to those with loss of hearing, the damaging consequences to your health are the same.

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

The authors of the study recommend that doctors and emergency responders work very hard to ensure that their communication standards are current and being followed. Put another way, it would help if doctors were on the lookout for the indications 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 sought help when we need it.

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

  • Will I become addicted to this medication? Is there an alternative medication that is safer for my hearing, or do I really need this one.
  • Will I have an ototoxic response to this drug? Are there alternate options?

Never leave a doctor’s office with medications unless you are completely clear on their risks, how they should be taken and how they affect your general health.

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