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

You’re probably aware that the US . is having an opioid crisis. More than 130 people are dying daily from an overdose. There is a link, which you may not have heard about, between drug and alcohol abuse and loss of hearing.

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 evaluating around 86,000 respondents, they found this connection is stronger the younger the person is. What causes the connection in the first place, unfortunately, is still not well understood.

Here’s what this particular study found:

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

Solutions and Hope

Because experts have already taken into account economics and class so those numbers are particularly shocking. So, now that we’ve identified a relationship, 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 deal with the issue. Researchers did have a couple of theories:

  • 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 unhealthy levels. And both high blood pressure and some pain killers have been shown to harm your hearing.
  • Lack of communication: Emergency departments are designed to get people in, deal with them, and process them as efficiently (or, in many cases, quickly) as possible. And if there is a life threatening emergency they can be in even more of a hurry than normal. In situations such as this, a patient may not get proper treatment because they can’t hear questions and instructions very well. They might not hear dosage advise or other medication guidelines.
  • Social isolation: Cognitive decline and social isolation are well known to be associated with hearing loss. In these situations, 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 incidents increase hearing loss, or that they are more likely to happen 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 authors of the study, that communications protocols be kept up to date by doctors and emergency responders. It would be helpful if doctors were on the lookout for people with hearing loss, in other words. We individuals don’t seek help when we should and that would also be extremely helpful.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your doctors like:

  • Will I become addicted to this medicine? Do I really need it, or is there an alternative medication available that is safer?
  • Is this drug ototoxic? Are there alternatives?

Never go home from a doctors appointment with medications unless you are crystal clear on their risks, what the dosage schedule is and how they impact your overall health.

Also, don’t wait to be tested if think that you might already be suffering from hearing loss. Ignoring your hearing loss for only two years can pay 26% more for your health care. Schedule a hearing exam right away.