The US. is in the midst of an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. Overdoses are killing over 130 individuals on a daily basis. But what you might not have heard yet is that there is a troubling link 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 connection between those under fifty who are suffering from hearing loss and abuse of alcohol or other substances.
Roughly 86,000 individuals participated in the study and it was discovered that the younger the person, the stronger the connection. What causes the connection to begin with, regrettably, is still not clear.
Here’s what was discovered by this study:
- People who developed hearing loss over the age of fifty were not different from their peers when it comes to substance abuse rates.
- People who developed hearing loss when they were younger than fifty were at least twice as likely to misuse opioids as their peers. Other things, like alcohol, were also inclined to be misused by this group.
- People were two times as likely to develop a general substance abuse issue than their peers if they got hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49.
Solutions and Hope
Those numbers are staggering, especially because experts have already accounted for issues such as class and economics. We have to do something about it, though, now that we have recognized a connection. Remember, causation is not correlation so without knowing the exact cause, it will be difficult to directly address the issue. Researchers had a couple of theories:
- Social isolation: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. 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.
- Medications that are ototoxic: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.
- Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, that alcohol raises your blood pressure, sometimes to unhealthy levels. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.
- Lack of communication: Emergency departments are designed to respond to people, treat them, and process them as efficiently (or, in some cases, quickly) as possible. 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 very well, say they can’t hear questions or directions from the staff, they may not receive correct treatment. They may agree to recommendations of pain medicine without fully understanding the concerns, or they may mishear dosage instructions.
Whether these occurrences increase hearing loss, or that they are more likely to occur to those with loss of hearing, the negative repercussions to your health are the same.
Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it
It’s recommended by the writers 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. We individuals don’t get help when we should and that would also be very helpful.
The following question should be asked of your doctor:
- Will I get addicted to this drug? Do I really need it, or is there a different medicine available that is less dangerous?
- Is this medication ototoxic? What are the alternate options?
If you are unsure of how a medicine will impact your overall health, what the risk are and how they should be used, you should not leave the office with them.
In addition, if you think you have hearing loss, don’t wait to be checked. Neglecting your hearing loss for only two years can increase your health care costs by 26%. So schedule an appointment now to have your hearing tested.