Call Us Today! 541-705-2248
The Dalles, OR

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

The US. is facing an opioid crisis as you’re probably aware. Overdoses are killing over 130 people daily. But what you might not be aware of is that there is a troubling link between hearing loss and drug and alcohol abuse.

According to new research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and conducted by a team from the University of Michigan, there’s a connection between those under fifty who are suffering from loss of hearing and abuse of alcohol or other substances.

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

Here’s what was found by this research:

  • People who developed loss of hearing over fifty were not different from their peers in terms of substance abuse rates.
  • People were at least twice as likely to misuse opioids than their peers if they developed hearing loss when they were under the age of fifty. They were also generally more likely to abuse other substances, like alcohol.
  • Individuals who developed hearing loss between the ages of 35 and 49 were twice as likely to develop general substance abuse issues than their peers.

Hope and Solutions

Because scientists have already taken into account class and economics so those numbers are particularly staggering. We have to do something about it, though, now that we have identified a relationship. Well, that can be difficult without understanding the exact cause (remember: correlation is not causation). A couple of theories have been put forward by experts:

  • Social isolation: It’s well established that hearing loss can lead to social isolation and cognitive decline. In situations like these, self-medication can be relatively common, and if the person doesn’t understand that hearing loss is an issue or what the cause is, this is especially true.
  • Ototoxic medications: Hearing loss is known to be caused by these medications.
  • Higher blood pressure: Of course, it’s also true, That blood pressure is raised by alcohol, sometimes to levels that are unhealthy. And both some pain killers and also high blood pressure have been shown to harm your hearing.
  • Lack of communication: Processing as quickly and efficiently as possible is what emergency departments are designed to do. Sometimes they are in a rush, especially if there’s a life-threatening emergency waiting for them. In situations like this, a patient might not get proper treatment because they can’t hear questions and instructions properly. They may agree to recommendations of pain medicine without completely understanding the risks, or they may mishear dosage directions.

Whether hearing loss is made worse by these situations, or those with loss of hearing are more likely to have them, the negative repercussions to your health are the same.

Substance Abuse And Hearing Loss, How to Prevent it

The authors of the research suggest that doctors and emergency responders work extra hard to ensure that their communication protocols are up to date and being followed. It would help if doctors were on the lookout for people with loss of hearing, in other words. But it would also help if we as individuals were more mindful of some of the symptoms of hearing loss, too, and sought out help when we need it.

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

  • Will I get addicted to this medication? Is there an alternative medicine that is safer for my hearing, or do I truly need this one.
  • Is this drug ototoxic? What are the alternatives?

If you are uncertain how a medication will impact your general health, what the dangers are and how they should be used, you shouldn’t leave the office with them.

Additionally, if you believe you have hearing loss, don’t wait to be tested. If you ignore your hearing loss for only two years you will pay 26% more for your health care. Schedule a hearing exam today.