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

You’re probably aware that the United States is having an opioid crisis. Overdoses are killing more than 130 people every day. But what you might not have heard yet is that there is a disturbing link between hearing loss 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 link between those under fifty who suffer from hearing loss and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

After analyzing nearly 86,000 participants, they found this connection is stronger the younger the person is. Unfortunately, it’s still not well known what causes that link in the first place.

Here’s what this particular study 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 under the age of fifty. Other things, such as alcohol, were also inclined to be misused by this group.
  • People who developed loss of hearing over the age of fifty did not differ from their peers when it comes to substance abuse rates.

Solutions and Hope

Because experts have already taken into consideration class and economics so those figures are especially shocking. So, now that we’ve recognized a relationship, we need to do something about it, right? Keep in mind, correlation is not causation so without knowing the exact cause, it will be hard to directly deal with the problem. A couple of theories have been put forward by researchers:

  • 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 realizethat hearing loss is the issue.
  • Lack of communication: Emergency departments are designed to respond to people, deal with them, and get them out as efficiently (or, in many cases, quickly) as they can. 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 able to communicate very well, say they can’t hear questions or directions from the staff, they may not get correct treatment. They might not hear dosage advise or other medication directions.
  • 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.
  • Medications that are ototoxic: These medications are known to cause hearing loss.

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

Preventing Hearing Loss and Substance Abuse

The authors of the study suggest that doctors and emergency departments work extra hard to ensure that their communication methods are up to date and being followed. It would be helpful if doctors were on the lookout for individuals with hearing loss, in other words. We individuals don’t get help when we need to and that would also be extremely helpful.

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

  • Is this drug addictive? Do I really need it, or is there an alternative medicine available that is less dangerous?
  • Will I have an ototoxic reaction to this drug? Are there alternate options?

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

Additionally, if you suspect you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t wait to be tested. Neglecting your hearing loss for just two years can pay 26% more for your health care. Schedule a hearing test right away.