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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 more than 130 people on a daily basis. But what you might 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 team from the University of Michigan, there’s a connection between those under fifty who suffer from hearing loss and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

After evaluating around 86,000 respondents, they found this link is stronger the younger the person is. What causes the connection to begin with, regrettably, is still not clear.

Here’s what was discovered by this study:

  • Individuals 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.
  • When it comes to hearing loss, people above the age of fifty who developed hearing loss didn’t differ from their peers in terms of substance abuse.
  • People were at least twice 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.

Solutions and Hope

Because experts have already taken into account economics and class so those figures are particularly staggering. So, now that we’ve identified a relationship, we have to do something about it, right? Keep in mind, 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 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: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
  • Lack of communication: Emergency departments are designed to get people in, deal with them, and get them out 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 usual. In cases such as this, a patient might not get correct treatment because they can’t hear questions and directions very well. They might not hear dosage advise or other medication directions.
  • Social isolation: 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 these occurrences increase loss of hearing, 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 recommend that doctors and emergency responders work extra hard to make sure that their communication standards are current and being implemented. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for people with hearing loss, in other words. But it would also help if we as individuals were more aware of some of the signs of hearing loss, too, and sought out help when we need it.

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

  • Is this medication addictive? Do I really need it, or is there a different medication available that is safer?
  • Is this drug ototoxic? What are the alternatives?

Never go home from a doctors appointment with medicines unless you are crystal clear on their risks, how they should be taken and how they influence your overall health.

In addition, don’t wait to get tested if think that you might already be suffering from loss of hearing. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will pay 26% more for your health care. So schedule an appointment now to have a hearing test.